The Pokémon Society’s Quiet Domination
The Penn State Pokémon Society puts the crown on the line this fall when they hope to repeat as Champions of the Intercollegiate Pokémon League. Led by founder/commissioner Alex Valente, the league features competition among six different schools, and is constantly in contact with other schools for expansion.
The Society itself is more of a community, with over 230 Pokémon enthusiasts in its active Facebook group.
However, there is also a competitive side. “Our club focuses heavily on the video game, with some newly-found card game interest,” revealed Valente.
This year’s competition is sure to be a bloodbath. Penn State’s advantage lies in their dedication. “I started playing Pokémon on September 30th, 1998 — the first day Red and Blue were released in the US. I got Blue version, and I haven’t stopped playing since,” cooly stated Valente, with the swagger of a man who has caught them all.
The year was 1998. The biggest internet browser was AOL 3.0. Pogs and Crazy Bones were both wildly popular among elementary schoolers. Handheld electronics, little kids’ desire to collect things, and Japan all came together at the high-water mark of American prosperity to produce the franchise, the fad, and the frenzy known as Pokémon.
Like youth soccer, everyone has played Pokémon at least once. “Dude, I loved Pokémon. I used to play for hours,” said my roommate. I happen to know he still has a DS with at least one Pokémon title, fifteen years later.
There are 12 generations now, 20 series games with dozens of spin-offs, and 649 different Pokémon to learn. That’s a far cry from the original 151 Pokemon, which many newcomers and nostalgists alike view as a possible barrier to (re-)entry. “It’s impossible to catch them all now. There’s just too many,” my roommate said later.
Some people welcome the challenge. “I say as long as Game Freak can keep making money, there should be no limit to the number of Pokémon,” proclaimed Valente.
But the real challenge lies in competing with Penn State, whose dynasty has incited the allegation of foul play. “The league is certainly not a farce. Even though it seems PSU is consistently the top team in the league, that is by no means evidence to claim this league was set up solely to promote ourselves,” assured Valente, speaking like a coy Vince McMahon.
Valente gives off a calm vibe, but he is no stranger to trash talk. “To our next opponents, I would like them to know that PSU is practicing hard and they should be ready for a well-fought battle,” he said, hinting at the storm that is currently brewing over the University of Texas, the foe for the first match.
The Penn State Pokémon Society has definitely been enjoying its success, and I have no doubt that the matches feature a cheering section made up of only the finest TSP dimes. They are always on the look out for new talent. But the true moral of the story is if you love something, there’s probably a club for it.