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Real life Pokémon trainers: welcome to the world of competitive Pokémon

Pokémon is known throughout the world as one of the most influential and loved franchises of all time. From video games and TV shows to trading cards and cuddly toys, there’s no end to the Pokémon hype, and there isn’t a person in the entire universe who hasn’t heard of Ash Ketchum and Pikachu.

But did you know that some people actually make money from playing Pokémon video games? Welcome to the world of competitive Pokémon my friends, where players from across the globe battle it out to see who has what it takes to be the true Pokémon Master and make a tidy sum along the way—if they’re good enough, that is.

What is competitive Pokémon?

Competitive Pokémon is a fast-paced, play-to-win environment. Unlike your normal playthrough of a Pokémon game where most people would usually choose their favourite Pokémon and teach them the strongest moves possible, competitive players have to take into account a few key factors when building their teams.

Here, you’re not against easy-to-beat AI here, which is relatively simple to outsmart or can be beaten with brute force. Instead, you’re playing against real people with their own strategies—thinking and adjusting on the fly. So, get your training caps on because things are about to get real nerdy.

 

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Everything you need to know about game mechanics

When talking about ‘mechanics’, we are referring to the internal workings of Pokémon.

All casual players most likely have been able to progress without understanding, or even knowing, about the existence of these mechanics. After all, they’re not essential to comprehend in order to complete a Pokémon game in the first place. However, this is a different story for competitive players. Understanding the mechanics of the game is essential if you want to win in this environment.

In order to nail a competitive match, you must knock out all of your opponents’ Pokémons before they do the same to you. A simple concept. But from here onwards, things start to get complicated. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered.

The entire strategy is essentially focused on damage—be it dealing, withstanding or avoiding damage. Let’s take a look at what all this means now, shall we?

1. Move mechanics

These are the types of mechanics that affect the damage dealt by any given move while in battle.

Type effectiveness

This one’s a staple of the series and something you may already be familiar with. Each type in Pokémon has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Fire is strong against Grass but weak against Water.

Type effectiveness is how these type matchups affect each other—ultimately boiling down to three things: super effective moves, neutrally effective moves and, well, not very effective moves. Here, super effective moves deal double damage, neutral moves don’t have any damage boost and not very effective moves deal half damage.

Additionally, Pokémons have something called a Same Type Attack Bonus (STAB). If a Pokémon uses a move that is the same type as itself (for example, a Fire type using a Fire type move) then it will deal one and a half times more damage on top of any super effective boost it may get.

The ability for a single Pokémon or a full team to withstand damage across a variety of types is called “Type Coverage,” or just “Coverage.”

Physical and special moves

All damage-dealing moves are either physical or special. Physical moves calculate damage based on the Pokémon’s ‘Attack’ stat, whereas special moves use the ‘Special Attack’ stat.

For the first three generations of Pokémon games, the type of attack was what determined whether it was physical or special. Bug, Flying, Fighting, Ground, Normal, Poison, Rock, Ghost and Steel moves were physical, and Dark, Dragon, Electric, Fire, Grass, Ice, Psychic and Water moves were special.

From generation four and onwards, the physical-special split was based on the style of the attack. You can check the types by heading to the ‘Battle Moves’ section of a Pokémon’s summary. A yellow and red box next to the move indicates a physical attack, whereas a purple box means a special type.

This split means you must pay particular attention to what moves you teach a Pokémon. For instance, Charizard has a high Special Attack stat. Teaching it the Fire type move ‘Fire Punch’ sounds like a good idea because of the STAB bonus (which was discussed earlier), but because Fire Punch is classed as a physical move, it wouldn’t be as effective as say, Flamethrower, which pairs much better with Charizard’s high special attack.

 

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2. Stat mechanics

These mechanics affect the different statistics of a Pokémon: HP, Attack, Defence, Special Attack, Special Defence and Speed. These, in turn, determine how good a Pokémon is at dealing, taking and avoiding damage.

Natures

Natures are more than just a fun little piece of additional information about your ‘mons. They actually increase and decrease your stats depending on which one you have. Overall, there are 25 different natures and each Pokémon is randomly bestowed with one of these.

Each nature gives a ten per cent boost in one stat and a ten per cent decrease in another. Because of this, it’s important to make sure your Pokémon has a nature that benefits it the most. For example, if your Pokémon was only using physical type moves, you would make sure it had an Adamant nature, which boosts Attack by ten per cent and decreases Special Attack by the same quantity.

At the same time, there are five natures that don’t provide any kind of increase or decrease: Hardy, Serious, Bashful, Quirky and Docile. These natures are useless in competitive battling since they provide no useful stat boost, so it’s recommended to avoid them.

Effort Values (EV’s)

Here’s a sneaky trick to make your Pokémon a little bit more powerful.

Effort Values (EV’s) are a hidden number that can be used to beef your Pokémon up in a way normal training could never do. Every single Pokémon, when defeated, yields an EV in a particular stat. Mankey, for example, gives one Attack EV upon defeat.

For every four EV’s gained in a particular stat, that stat will be increased by one point. A total of 510 EV’s can be gained, with 255 able to go into any one stat. However, because 510 and 255 are not divisible by four, you only need 508 EV’s in total (252 in one stat) to fully EV train your Pokémon.

Individual Values (IV’s)

Individual Values (IV’s) are similar to EV’s given how they’re an invisible number that affects a Pokémon’s stats, but that’s where the similarities end. IV’s are permanent numbers that cannot be changed and are determined when you obtain a Pokémon. These numbers range from zero to 31 and there’s one for each stat. The lower the number, the worse the stat. So zero would mean the worst a stat could be and 31 would be the best, also known as a perfect IV.

Because IV’s cannot be changed, it can be very hard to get a Pokémon with perfect IV’s across the board. The easiest way is through Pokémon breeding, but that’s another topic for another day. Competitive Pokémon players use level 100 Pokémon, with perfect IV’s, perfectly trained EV’s, the perfect set of moves and a carefully chosen item.

While all this is achievable on your own, it can take months to forge the perfect team. That’s where battle simulators come in. They allow players to quickly and easily assemble a team of perfect Pokémon to battle without the hassle of breeding and EV training, and this is where a majority of the competitive battling takes place outside of official Pokémon tournaments.

 

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I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was

Phew! Quite a lot to unpack there, I know. But if you want to be a Pokémon master, you’ve got to put in the work! While it may seem daunting, getting into competitive Pokémon isn’t as hard as it seems. All you need is a Pokémon game—preferably one of the most recent games—and a willingness to learn. There are tons of online resources available to help you understand the ins and outs of competitive battling such as Smogon, as well as countless YouTube channels dedicated to the scene. 

But the absolute best and most surefire way to get going is to build a team and battle it out. Theorising is all well and good, but if you don’t practice what you preach, you won’t see actual results. Thankfully, due to the power of technology, you can battle with players from all over the world as of today.

Using this feature will allow you to test out teams, move sets and use different strategies. Eventually you’ll find a winning formula and will be ready for the big leagues, namely, the Pokémon World Championship. Being held in London this year, the competition sees the best of the best battling it out for more than $500,000 in prize money. Just think, one day you could earn your living from battling Pokémon. Wild.

Real life Pokémon trainers: welcome to the world of competitive Pokémon

Community, competition, and a whole lot of shenanigans

Pokémon is such a popular franchise and for valid reasons. From cute characters to the depth of the video games, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. But what do those who play competitively get out of the practice? SCREENSHOT spoke to Colin Hicks, an avid member of the competitive scene, to get a better understanding of why it’s so enjoyable.

Pokémon is primarily aimed at children, but with a vast majority of the fandom being adults who grew up with the franchise, it’s something they still enjoy today, and even share with their kids. Hicks’ first Pokémon game was Pokémon Sword and Shield for the Nintendo Switch, which he bought for his kid. In an attempt to help his child complete the Pokédex—an in-game record of Pokémon seen and captured—Hicks got sucked into the world of Pokémon.

“I got it for my kid and talked to a heap of people in the Facebook community to help complete the Pokédex,” he said.

Through this, Hicks got to spend quality time with his child, enjoying Pokémon and slowly improving his skills. “I learnt the basics of battling and then wanted to improve,” he continued. The competitive scene has many draws but for Hicks, it was seeing how fast he could move up the ranks and mess with different teams.

“Two things excite me,” the enthusiast said. “Seeing how fast I can get to Masterball Rank, and trying out shenanigans. My most recent shenanigans have been using a Lunala holding a Power Herb and an Oranguru with an Assault Vest and the ability Symbiosis… it worked out okay but not as good as [Blacephalon] the clown.”

It’s not just the excitement of messing around with new teams and seeing how fast he can move up the ladder that has given Hicks his love for the scene. Recently, he went through a harrowing ordeal involving his leg, and the people he had met through playing were by his side the entire journey. “I’ve made some great friends along the way. Many of which checked in on me during a recent ordeal when I almost had to have my leg amputated,” he admitted in this regard.

These wonderful people, who Hicks wouldn’t have met if not for competitive Pokémon, stood by him as he recovered from his injuries and provided support when he needed it the most. And for those who are still on the fence about jumping into the competitive arena, Hicks had this to say: “Do it. Learn from your losses and make changes, not excuses. And most of all, have fun.”

Well, there you have it folks! From intricate number crunching to finding pals that lift you higher, competitive Pokémon is one of the most diverse and exciting communities around. I bet you would be hard pressed to find a more fulfilling game to get obsessed with. So come on trainers, what are you waiting for? Grab those Poké balls and get battling!

The Arcade: your one-stop-shop for this week’s quirkiest gaming news

Welcome, fellow netizens, to the Arcade: a space for you to soak in all the quirkiness and intrigue the world of video games has to offer. Why don’t you take a seat, save your progress, and download the latest gaming news with us? Oh, and enjoy your stay while you’re at it!

1. Gendered language is removed from the character creation screen of ‘World of Warcraft’

The alpha test of World of Warcraft’s newest expansion, Dragonflight, has removed gendered language from its character creation screen. According to Wowhead, “Where it previously gave players the option to select Male or Female body types, it now simply refers to them as Body 1 and Body 2 respectively.”

While this is only a minor text change and is considered pretty low-impact where the game is concerned, it keeps up with its developer’s views on inclusivity.

However, it seems that more involved changes are on the way. Data miners have discovered that World of Warcraft players will be able to eventually pick their own pronouns—she/her, he/him and they/them—as well as select their preferred voice. Sadly, there has been no information as of yet on how this will be implemented.

2. An ‘Elden Ring’ player has beaten the game in 2.5 hours without taking a single hit or levelling up

The world of From Software’s Elden Ring is a scary one at the best of times, even when you’re at a high level and have all the best weapons and armour. But one mad lad going by the alias Ainrun managed to beat the game without getting hit or gaining a single level, all in two and a half hours.

What makes this insane run so unique is that normally, most no-hit run attempts skip bosses or even entire areas to make it easier. But not Ainrun. The streamer—who has been doing challenge runs of From Software games since 2020—even decided to take on the Grafted Scion boss, one that forces you to jump off a cliff and die to continue. I personally feel like [skipping the Grafted Scion] breaks a sequence that the developers intended you to go through to progress with the game, so I opt to do the fight,” Ainrun told Kotaku.

“In my opinion, a ‘challenge’ run like what I’ve done is supposed to be challenging, [so] using shortcuts doesn’t really make sense.” he added.

The secret to Ainrun’s success was his character build, which focused on staggering the enemy, letting him keep at a safe distance and do massive damage once his foe was successfully staggered.

3. Sexual orientation options are being added to the ‘Sims 4’ in a free update

The next big update for the Sims 4 will allow players to choose the sexual orientation of their characters. This includes support for straight, gay and bisexual Sims, as well as aromantic and asexual options. Lead designer Jessica Croft said in a blog post that the new update is very much “a version 1.0.”

The new feature adds the choices in the Create-a-Sim part of the game. There are three new options to choose from: whether they are romantically attracted to men, women or both; whether they are interested to “Mess Around” with men, women or both; and whether the Sim is “exploring romantically.” So, apart from being a relaxing game to play, this new level of inclusivity means more people will feel at home in the Sims.

Previous updates for the Sims 4 added in pronouns, but this new feature only adds the gender binary, something that Croft mentioned and explained is due to “technical limitations.”

“As stated above, mechanically, non binary Sims don’t yet exist in the Sims 4. You still have to make a binary gender selection for your Sim when creating them, regardless of the pronoun settings,” Croft wrote. “The Sims 4 is eight years old at this point, and reliant on systems that were originally architected with a gender binary in mind. In the intervening years, we’ve taken important steps such as Gender Customization, Pronouns and now Sexual Orientation. It’s a journey still in progress, with many more steps to go. Proper mechanical systems to fully support non binary Sims is another step in that journey.”

This free update will be released on 28 July 2022 alongside the High School Years expansion pack.

4. New feline adventure game ‘Stray’ is helping save cats’ lives

Causing much hype after its initial unveiling in 2020, Stray sees you take on the role of a cat who falls into a mysterious world inhabited by curious robots and attempts to make its way back home. 

If this adorable sounding game hasn’t enticed you already, then maybe this will. Publisher Annapurna Interactive is teaming up with different animal charities in order to promote the game and raise money to help vulnerable cats around the world.

Nebraska Humane Society is one such charity, which has game codes to win by donating $5. Similarly, Cat’s Protection in the UK is giving out codes if you sign up to become a ‘Pawsome Player’, which means livestreaming to raise awareness and funds for stray cats. As always, Annapurna is doing its bit as a top indie game publisher and this kind of marketing is as clever as it is heartwarming.

5. A dedicated ‘Pokémon’ fan has crafted a cartridge that turns the Gameboy into a working Pokédex

Ever fancied owning your own fully-functioning Pokédex? Well, thanks to Pokémon super fan QueenL3fah on Reddit, now you can.

Using a modified Gameboy cartridge, QeenL3fah showcased the device—which is also hooked up to the internet—and proceeded to input “Bulbasaur” and bring up the Pokémon’s dex entry, albeit from Wikipedia. Despite it being a very barebones concept, it’s still very impressive.

Made a Wi-Fi enabled gameboy cartridge - a Pokédex of some sort! from pokemon

Many intrigued Pokémon fans asked QueenL3fah if they would be willing to improve the device and put it up for sale. However, they didn’t seem keen to do so, mainly due to the difficulty and cost of producing the device.

They were, however, very forthcoming with their knowledge of tinkering with the tech, and plan to make a document detailing how you can recreate the device yourself. It will be extremely interesting to see what others do with this knowledge, and perhaps we will see a new and improved version somewhere along the horizon.

6. UK government weighs in on the use of loot boxes in video games

Loot boxes have made headlines a few times in recent years, with kids accidentally racking up absurd amounts on their parent’s credit cards trying to get super rare character skins and in-game items, but recently, the UK government has weighed in on the matter.

For those who don’t know, a loot box is a purchasable item—usually with real money—in a video game that gives the player a chance of obtaining items of varying rarity. Much like gambling, you aren’t guaranteed to hit the jackpot, so it may be quite some time before you get that rare item you’ve been looking for.

There have been calls to regulate or even ban loot boxes as it exposes children to gambling-like behaviours, and as of 17 July 2022, the UK government has said that the games industry should self-regulate.

In a statement by UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the following was announced: “Games companies and platforms need to do more to ensure that controls and age restrictions are applied.”

7. ‘Elden Ring’ legend Let Me Solo Her given epic gift from Bandai in recognition of their achievements

For those of you who have been living under a rock since Elden Ring’s release, a player named Let Me Solo Her has been making waves in the community for helping players defeat one of the game’s hardest bosses by himself.

YouTuber and streamer Klein Tsuboi, who pilots the infamous character, has helped over 1,000 players defeat Malenia, Blade of Miquella and their exploits have not gone unnoticed.

In a recent Twitter post, Tsuboi showed off a sweet care package they received from Elden Ring publisher Bandai Namco, congratulating them on their achievements, which you can see below:

In the package, Tsuboi received a piece of custom artwork of their character Let Me Solo Her, a wooden lithograph, a coat and a full-length sword.

Tsuboi’s post read: “Thank you Bandai Namco and Elden Ring for giving me this gift and congratulating me for being Let Me Solo Her […] I can still remember my first experience with the Soulsborne series and almost quitting because of Iudex Gundyr in Dark Souls 3.”

“I’m glad I persisted and went on to enjoy the game, because this community is one of the most passionate and dedicated I’ve ever seen in a game, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” they continued.

8. ‘Bayonetta 3’ will feature a ‘naive angel mode’ for those who don’t wish to see nudity

After a long, long wait—eight years to be exact—Bayonetta 3 is finally being released later this year. Everyone’s favourite sexy, British witch is back, and with her comes the series’ signature sexual and suggestive content.

However, this time around, Platinum Games have opted to include what they call a “naive angel mode” for players who do not wish to see the 18+ content. This new filter will censor side boob, cover up legs and generally give Bayonetta a more ‘modest’ look.