Maybe it’s weird, but I enjoy watching Pokémon far more than playing it. I haven’t seriously played a Pokémon title since SoulSilver in ‘09, and haven’t finished one since Pokémon Blue way back in the ancient yester-year of 1996. Yet despite my apparent aversion to all things Pocket and Monster I am obsessed with Pokémon esports.
My affinity for competitive pocket monster battling might have to do with the relatively low barrier of entry. Generally, esports broadcasts are constructed to appeal to people who already understand the ins and outs of the game. That’s fine, and how traditional meat sports work too. But it’s nice to see an esports broadcast take time to break down what’s going on to its audience. Sure, casters and analysts exist to fill this role, but the minutiae—the difference between why a match was won or lost or how you can win your own matches—gets lost in the sauce.
The Pokémon games are different from their shooty, stabby, and punchy brethren in that they feel like the only esport titles that actively court the casual player and observer. Official sponsored Pokémon broadcasts will weave strategy discussions and basic battle tutorials in between every match while also offering tips on how you the player can be the very best, like no one ever was.
See for yourself. The Pokémon Players Cup started a couple of weeks ago with online invitationals for Pokken Tournament DX and Pokémon Sword/Shield. I started my binge with Pokken Tournament, expecting to watch two Pokémon I’d never heard of before from a generation I completely missed, beating the crap out of each other. But these Pokken Tournament casters got me right. Listening as they explained super move usage and support ‘mon activations, I felt like I ended the vod having legit learned something more than “Haha Pikachu Libre goes bzzt.”
During one of the matches, the casters speculated that one of the players would choose his normal fighting ‘mon, a Darkrai, to use against his opponent’s Aegislash. When he chose a Braixen instead, the casters lost their shit.
Their excited screaming about a Braixen of all ‘mons brought the biggest grin to my face and reminded me why I love esports, all esports, even the ones where I’m still learning what’s going on. The passion in their voice, the giggling, the screaming, it’s infectious and it makes you want in on the fun they’re having. Which, with how accessible and informative these broadcasts make the games, is easier than ever.