This week we were asked to form a group within class and perform a Fanlike activity that no one in the group is already overly familiar with. Lillian Ritchie and I teamed up and decided to join a Play! Pokemon Tournament at The Brooklyn Strategist this past weekend.
When I was younger, I could easily be considered a fan of Pokemon based on my involvement with the video games and selling of Pokemon cards. Despite the amount of cards I bought and resold, I didn’t find myself playing the game too often — I was too busy with sports at the time, and found that I didn’t really enjoy the game — most likely due to the amount of rules that I needed to memorize and that didn’t quite work with my competitive nature. My collection of cards is nowhere to be found; my parents may have thrown them away but somehow kept my collection of POGs — go figure.
I walked into The Brooklyn Strategist on Sunday afternoon around 2:30pm and quickly was amazed with the crowd and fluctuation of people incoming and outgoing and traffic within the store. I arrived a few minutes before Lillian and acquainted myself with the shop — they had a variety of board games, card games, and strategy games for sale that were all fairly foreign to me. A ‘Beginners’ Pokemon Lesson Session had just ended and there was a frenzy of purchases happening in the shop post lesson. Lillian arrived and we both signed up for the experience — $10 for entry and another $15 for a deck to play with. Since neither Lillian nor I were avid players, we split the cost of the deck and decided to share the experience.
We were immediately escorted to the ‘official’ table to sign up for our player card and become official members of the Play! Pokemon League. They took our birthday and email information and provided us a ‘temporary’ card that we then later registered on the Play! Pokemon site. Prior to sitting down, we were handed 3 special edition cards for joining the league. They give these only after playing a specified amount of games (I can’t recall but want to say six as it felt like an arbitrary number) and another special edition card for playing with this licensed Pokemon Tournament Establishment. The cards were special editions with a foil backing — in the ‘old days’ circa 1999/2000 these would have been the cards I traded or sold for good money — not the $2 or $3 a card trade; but typically a card like that depending on rareness would go for $25 - $100. I highly doubt that now, but wanted to note my thought in the moment of receiving something that was totally righteous back in my day.
Post receiving our membership id, cards, and a breakdown of the rules we were pointed in the direction of the player tables — there were two of them, filled to the brim with very eager and competitive 6 year olds. I can only speak for myself on this one, but that was incredibly overwhelming and intimidating — the other side of the coin was we didn’t want to join the kids and make them nervous (or more so their parents nervous). We took a cue and found an open table on the other side of the shop (the layout is a bit wonky, but they have a hallway in the back that leads to another storefront where there’s about 10 picnic-style tables hugging both walls and a strategy layout platform in the front). We found ourselves at the table in the front, near the strategy platform.
The deck we purchased included everything we needed to begin - game deck, a player mat, some action pieces and a coin to flip (which resembled a slammer from POGs quite a bit). The rules were lengthy and difficult to follow (instructions were on the reverse of the player board — because of our eagerness to engage within the game, we didn’t quite see the instructions right away. However, there were simplified instructions on the front of the player mat that helped…kinda. We attempted to play but quickly got distracted with our environment and I know I got overwhelmed with all of the rules.. I have this thing with board games where the rules get to me every time. Needless to say, I think we experienced a true fandom experience and even participated in several fandom exercises.
All and all it was a fun experience — not sure if it was successful or not as I still (after nearly 20 years) don’t know how to play this game, but definitely worth the time and experience down memory lane (both Pokemon and POGS). I observed fandom in other genres and felt the excitement in the shop. Absolutely a place worth visiting if one enjoys a board game or two as well. They also have a bar, which was cool and interesting as well!