Pocket Monsters

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Gengar Prime. Arceus. Rayquaza C level X. Aiden was in the backseat of the car, excitedly calling out names. What sounded like gibberish was my nine-year old son preparing for his first Pokemon tournament.

Pokemon were created as an Atari video game. Wildly successful, Pokemon evolved into movies, television, comic books, toys, trading cards, and a strategy game. Aiden fell in love with the colorful monsters on the cards: then he learned to play the game. Having played against friends, Aiden wanted to test his skills against strangers.

As a game, Pokemon falls somewhere between poker and Dungeons & Dragons. Playing a 60-card deck against a single opponent, winning requires magical creatures, strategic thinking and luck.

The tournament was held in a drafty warehouse full of card tables and folding chairs. Seventy people milled about, trading Pokemon cards and playing pick-up matches. The players were five to 55 years old, all races, 20 percent female. We stood in the registration line between an undersized 12-year old girl sporting thick glasses and a muscular 28-year old man with the brute presence of a boxer.

Aiden was quiet and watchful, but during his first match, he blossomed. There he was, surrounded by people who loved what he loved. Truly geeky or imposingly buff, all that mattered in this room were your Pokemon and how you played them.


Aiden had been carrying a world around inside his head. The Pokemon -- their strengths and weaknesses, their histories and evolutions -- were alive to him. This tournament was the first time I saw his world manifested as a shared vision. It was like I'd traveled to an exotic foreign country, and on arrival I'd discovered my son was not only fluent in the local language, but was a sophisticated and sought-after conversationalist.

We all have worlds inside our heads. Sometimes we join others who share our visions and create universes. Burning Man, the Renaissance Faire, Giants baseball. Sometimes these universes are visible, but often they're hidden away in unexpected places. Now when I see a warehouse I wonder what's behind the corrugated metal walls. Is it plumbing supplies, or a land of enchantment -- like Pokemon?

With a Perspective, I'm Evan Sagerman.