The Pokémon Go craze may be over, but there are games within the Pokémon franchise that know much greater longevity. The original Pokémon Trading Card Game has been around since the mid-90s and, at the competitive level, enjoys as much popularity as it did when it first came out. The Pokémon Organized Play (POP) constitutes the official League for the game, organizing official ranked tournaments ranging from local events to World Championships all around the world. And as it turns out, Trinity Western University houses a Master of the competitive Pokémon.
First-year Philosophy major Chase Moloney is a former Pokémon World Champion and Canadian National Champion. Moloney won the 2012 World Championship at 15 years old and placed in the Top 8 at the next World Championships as well. He has played in every World Championship in the past five years.
So, how do you become a World Champion of a Pokémon game? It takes more skill than you might think. Moloney explained that the Pokémon Trading Card Game is something halfway between chess and Poker. “On the one hand, there’s strategy and an element of chess,” Moloney said. “But there’s also randomization with the cards, so you’re playing strategy and you’re playing probability at the same time.”
You need a good poker face, too. Moloney explained that since you’re playing against a real, physical opponent and not just a computer, you can actually get a read on your opponent’s hand. Just like in Poker, if your opponent seems unhappy you may be able to deduce that they have a bad hand.
Moloney started playing in 2010 when he was in Grade 7, and worked himself to the World Championship title within three years. He first played with friends at a local game & card shop near his home in Victoria before he started participating in events in Vancouver. After ranking high in local tournaments, he placed at Nationals before moving on to the World Championships in 2012 in Kona, Hawaii. Moloney ended up winning his first World Championship tournament, landing him first place prizes including a $10,000 scholarship, a free trip to next year’s World Championship and a few thousands of dollars worth of Pokémon cards.
When I asked if he still plays, Moloney confessed that he actually hasn’t touched any cards since August at the most recent World Championships in San Francisco. Moloney said that he has not been able to play because POP reduced the number of nearby events, but also because he is too caught up in university. “I don’t have as much time or money [for it], as I’m putting a lot of focus into school this year,” he said.
Finally, I asked Moloney what he thought of Pokémon Go. As a game that put Pokémon back on the map for a lot of people who don’t otherwise play games from the franchise, I was curious to hear if it was an interesting game to a veritable Pokémon Master as well. Moloney said that he only enjoyed Pokémon Go for about three weeks. “I can be a really competitive person, so the fact that there weren’t tournaments to compete at to win and become the best made me lose interest,” he said. “It was enjoyable, but I couldn’t achieve that same accomplishment.”