"Statesboro, Pokémon chooses you!" to host a Pokémon City Championship.
But unlike a Pokémon trainer calling on Scyther or Electabuzz to throw down in a spur of the moment battle with another of those renowned "pocket monsters," the actual choosing occurred some time ago. This is the third year that Galactic Comics and Games at 25 Siebald St. is hosting a Pokémon City Championships event.
The 2010 tournament will be Sunday, Dec. 26, beginning at 11 a.m.
To be clear, it's not a videogame competition, although the Pokémon universe expanded from the cosmic singularity of Nintendo's original 1996 Gameboy release. What it is, is a Pokémon Trading Card Game, or TCG, tournament, the first stage in the 2010-2011 Play! Pokémon Championship Series sanctioned by The Pokémon Company International.
Starting here, winners will earn points toward a potential invitation to the 2011 Pokémon World Championships in San Diego, Calif., next August.
Although Pokémon TCG players in a local league engage in battles at the Galactic store most Saturday evenings, the Pokémon Cities tournament will pull in top trainers from a much wider area.
"We're expecting players from Florida, South Carolina, all of North Georgia. We've had players come before from Alabama," said Galactic Comics and Games owner Keith Brown. "Pokémon Cities is definitely a higher level than your local tournament."
The tournament here is the first stop in a circuit, scheduled between Christmas and New Year's, in which some of the same players will travel to other Georgia locations daily as they collect as many points as possible. But according to Brown, his store is the only tournament location in the southeastern part of the state.
"These players are some top-notches. Some of the highest ranked players in the United States have been here before to play," Brown said.
The local store also hosts spring and fall tournaments in the Pokémon TCG Battle Roads series, but Brown says those draw about half as many players as December's more prestigious Pokémon Cities event. He expects anywhere from 30 to 60 players from near and far for the Dec. 26 tournament.
Each player usually supplies his or her own deck of 60 trading cards, and the contents of the decks vary widely.
"You very rarely see two decks that are exactly the same," said Cody Benham, who heads the local Pokémon Organized Play League.
At the start of each one-on-one contest, each player lays down six prize cards representing six Pokémon characters, and the players battle to capture all of their opponent's prize cards. The Pokémon characters, such as those in the Basic Pokémon cards, carry different fighting abilities, called powers. Energy cards modify these powers, and other cards called Supporter cards also affect the course of play in various ways.
As in more traditional card games, decks are shuffled, and the luck of the draw enters into it, as well as skill and some creativity.
Anyone, whether they know much about the game or not, can enter the Pokémon City Championship. It's an open tournament and free to play. Beginners without their own deck of trading cards will be furnished a "pre-constructed deck."
The three age divisions for the tournament suggest just how young some of the competitors are. The divisions are Junior ( for players born in 2000 or later), Senior (born 1996-1999), and Masters (born in 1995 or earlier). Statesboro's active players range in age from around 8 to their late 20s, Benham reports. The local league has about 30 members.
A Masters Division contender at the age of 21, Benham is a senior majoring in philosophy at Georgia Southern University. He started playing Pokémon card games in third grade. That would have been around 1998, when the trading card sets first arrived in America.
League play, he asserts, benefits Statesboro as well as the competitors.
"It's just something that's good for the community, I think," Benham said. "It gets kids together and develops friendships and social interaction."