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The Spirit And Passion At The London Pokémon World Championships 2022

The Spirit And Passion At The London Pokémon World Championships 2022

The very best have been decided

Crouched on the floor behind finalist Eduardo Cunha’s biggest supporters, they’re standing arm-in-arm along the strip in front of the main stage, as the final moments of the VGC (video game championship) tournament come to an unexpected close. Suddenly the five supporters sprint forwards toward the stage. I stare up at the screen. Nobody was knocked out...

I pause for a moment. I knew that for the GAMINGbible Instagram story, in case Eduardo won, I wanted to chase them and capture the eclectic moments of joy as he takes the final blow and the crowd goes wild, but his opponent, Guillermo Kasty had instead surrendered. I took a beat and ran, catching up to the hyped-up Pokémon fans as the screen adjusted to display “WIN”. 

The crowd were up on their feet. Eduardo dropped to his knees. In front of the stage, you’d think it was a pit in a metal club (specifically Satan’s Hollow in Manchester). This is the kind of reaction reserved for massive sporting events but this is Pokémon, and Pokémon is just a video game isn't it?

Players, fans, media and influencers flocked to the London Excel Centre last week for the 2022 Pokémon World Championships, happening for the first time in its almost 18-year history outside of North America.

Trainers, as they are so aptly called, duked it out across a range of different games. From the Trading Card Game to Pokken, Pokémon GO to Unite, and the current mainline video games, Sword and Shield. Across a range of age groups, Juniors, Seniors and Masters, the best trainers from across the globe were here to compete in the biggest Pokémon event of the year.

It wasn’t all about the competitive scene, of course, as for the second time in the UK, The Pokémon Company opened a pop-up Pokémon Center store, full of brand new exclusive merch only available at this year's event. The biggest hitters being the beefeater garb adorned Roserade and Pikachu plushies.

The store was designed as a walkthrough experience, each area based on a different aspect of London, adorned with a Pokémon-themed pun (highlights included South Blazikensington and Saville Rowlett). Alongside the plushies, other big-ticket items included hand-painted Beefeater Pikachu statues and event-exclusive Bear Walker Skateboards. (for £199.99 each I couldn’t justify it, but you could see the joy on the face of any trainer who could.)

Outside was “Worlds Square”, a more child-focused area for trainers to try out different activities, from face painting to designing your own jumbo Pokémon card. Photo opportunities with Pikachu and Eevee were also available, for those who don’t have a heart made of stone.  

Of course, it was the main hall that housed all the action, with tables as far as the eye could see, dedicated to each of the franchise’s competitive formats. Certain lucky competitors were even invited to attend signings with Pokémon Company president Tsunekazu Ishihara and longtime series producer and composer Junichi Masuda. I was lucky enough to meet Masuda in the media area, and let’s just say all professionalism left my body and I gushed out all my thanks for the music we’ve all been humming since 1996.

TCG Finalists and Winners At Pokémon Worlds
TCG Finalists and Winners At Pokémon Worlds

As great as it was for players to be invited to Worlds and battle it out in the main hall, trainers wanted to make it onto the main stage for the big climactic battles. The hype was absolutely real from the crowd during the finals of each format, and even the youngest players brought out the most raucous applause and support from the crowd. That’s probably one of my biggest takeaways from the competitive scene: the layers of support and respect. Competitors fist bumped and cheered each other on, and spectators in the crowd cheered for everyone, no matter who they wanted to win. Rivalries clearly exist but the respect for each other transcended all of that, and as all the finalists and winners took the stage to collect their trophies during the closing ceremony (handed over by Ishihara himself), the joy in the room was infectious. It didn’t matter the player's age, where they came from or the game they played - everyone was respected and applauded. Wholesome.

The winner of the VGC Masters division, Eduardo Cunha, probably wrapped it up best when asked to offer advice to upcoming players during his post-win interview:

“My advice is to never fear learning from others, there's no shame in reaching out and asking for help. Be it in Pokémon or in life. It's absolutely no shame. We all need help. We cannot all live alone. And yeah, just stick to your friends too because those are the ones that you will take out of this game. It's not the trophies. It's not the Pokémon itself. It's what you learn and the friends you make along the way.”

A spectator watches on /
The Pokémon Company

After all that, the pop-up shop, Worlds Square, the cosplay and battles, Ishihara revealed the future gimmick of the Trading Card Game (the return of EX cards), followed up by a new trailer for the next mainline games, Scarlet and Violet (revealing some new ways the meta will be changed up in the next entry), and then the reveal of where next year’s Worlds will take place. 

After three years of delays waiting for the London World Championships, it feels bittersweet to say the event is over. Long-time friends finally reunited, new friendships forged and a whole load of amazing battles. Bring it all on again in 2023, when Worlds comes to Yokohama, Japan.

Featured Image Credit: The Pokémon Company

Topics: Pokemon, Pokemon Go, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Game Freak