About 1,000 Pokemon players will descend on the Hilton Waikoloa Resort in mid-August as the resort hosts the Pokemon World Championships for a second time. Oh, and because most of them are children, their families will be with them, filling rooms, dining at restaurants and spending money at area businesses.
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You might not know Rayquaza (which is a dragon type and a flying type of Pokemon character) from Snorlax (a normal type) or Pichu (looks like a baby Pikachu, the most popular character), but such details are second nature to the contestants. They play the trading card game, the Nintendo video games or both. They range in age from elementary school kids to teens to adults old enough to be grandparents.
"We had a (trading card game) player that was 62," said J.C. Smith, director of marketing at Pokemon Co. International. This year’s oldest player is 44, "and he happens to be the father of a kid that plays in the Junior Division."
Tomorrow through Sunday, U.S. gamers will compete in the nationals in Indiana for a chance to compete against international contenders on the Big Island.
Pokemon trainers (contestants) whose Pokemon don’t faint too often and who master the use of their HP (hit points) attack points, defense points, special attack points, special defense points and speed, will fill the 32 coveted slots to represent the U.S. on the world stage in Kona.
About 2,000 contestants are expected at the U.S. nationals, while the world event is invitation-only and is therefore smaller, Smith said.
Hilton Waikoloa Village hosted the event in 2007, so employees and local businesses likely remember the gamers’ colorful dress – a Pokemon merchandiser’s dream.
The Pokemon (short for Pocket Monster) phenomenon began in Japan in 1996 and came to America in 1998 in the form of the Nintendo Pokemon video game’s Red and Blue versions. They were quickly followed by the animated TV show, and the trading card game soon started another phase of the craze. Many a chore was done in Hawaii homes by kids hoping to earn another card pack that maybe, just maybe, would have a "shiny" in it (a special card with colorful foil used in the printing process).
Certain offspring of a certain columnist grew up with Pokemon, mastering memorization, learning to quickly do arithmetic in their heads, learning strategy and using critical thinking. Two of them are back into it via the Nintendo DS and served as technical consultants for this column, which did not surprise Pokemon International’s Smith.
"There’s plenty of kids out there who just want to watch the animated show," but those who revisit the trading card or video game discover "a depth of game-play" that refreshes the challenge and opens up the Pokeball full of fun all over again.
Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.