Kids, Collectors, etc. ..... 

Hi, gang...normally, when I write something like this, it's for _Recording_
magazine and it's usually about music or audio gear. But over the past several weeks, I've been getting into the Pokemon TCG, and I've found it to be a really nice brain-exerciser...makes you do some serious thinking, sort of like chess, but it's also very relaxing and has a real sense of fun to it. And it has little to nothing to do with music, so I can kick back with it without having to engage my mind in 'business mode', so to speak. Anyway, I've gotten a good bit of enjoyment out of the game, and have spent a little time and effort in building up a decent card pool for deck-building and strategy experimentation. Which, natch, is why I was poking around and reading in this section. But reading thru, several points have come up which do need some touching-on...

As you've probably guessed from my being a published technical writer, I'm not in the 'usual age bracket' for Pokemon. And it irritates me that there _is_ this apparent 'market targeting' by WotC and various other forces that pigeonhole the Pokemon TCG as something suitable only for kids and early teens. Granted, yes, a lot of this comes from the mere fact that the prime tie-in point for the TCG is out of both Nintendo games as well as the cartoon, but the game seems to be something on a different par, with the potential to be enjoyed by a much wider audience than it seems to be aimed

I've been reading a number of posts expressing considerable frustration along these same lines, also, as well as on tangents which seem to focus right back at some of the core issues surrounding this same point. And foremost among them is this hostility toward younger players. Or is it? In a lot of the posts I've read, the issue slowly turns back to some sort of parental influence, either direct or indirect. And to be honest, folks, if this is the case, then there's really nothing new here. What you're seeing is not some 'new Poke-phenom', but the irritating behavior of a set of dysfunctional parents. These are the sorts who you'd see beating the living crap out of their kid in the little league parking lot when little Johnny missed that critical outfield catch or whatever he might've done to incur their wrath at not fulfilling their vicarious dreams. Then, it was
softball. Today, it's Pokemon. And instead of teaching their kids that the best way to succeed is to cooperate and to grow through doing, you get the lesson that success comes through tantrums, trouncing others, and what you _have_ as opposed to what you _are_. Interestingly, the cartoon does try to teach the right values; it just seems like people aren't always listening. 

But yes, these parents who're trying to live vicariously through their offspring are a big force in ruining aspects of Pokemon...as well as anything else they get their hands on, and not just Pokemon. And I feel sorry for the kids who're being ramrodded into making trades the way their parents insist (or demand), into learning that the game is best won if you have the best toys (i.e., loads of rare holos, mega-HPs, etc) instead of
the best-played toys, and into the belief that the importance of Pokemon (or anything else, apparently) comes from the monetary worth of what you have, rather than the enjoyment it brings you. Yes, I can see peoples' frustration at dealing with kids who're being force-fed these dysfunctional values...but really, these kids should be pitied, and their _parents_ are the ones who're far more deserving of scorn. The kids are just being
dragged through something in a way they shouldn't...or wouldn't...do it, and some will likely wind up either just as dysfunctional in their later lives or, worse, wind up needing a good bit of therapy when the parental pressure finally hits the bursting point.

But there is a factor outside of that that's driving some of the parents...and in some cases, some of the kids as well. And this is what some call the 'collectors', but which should _really_ be referred to as the 'speculator market'. Technically, any of us who have a pile of anything around are 'collectors' of that whatever-it-is. And any of us on here who enjoy Pokemon enough to get really into game-play will certainly have a
good card-pool for deck-building and the like. So we _all_ fit this 'collector' label. But not all of us on here are part of this weird balloon market in card prices...which is the _real_ problem, because it drives a whole set of 'collectors' who look strictly at a box of Pokemon cards the same way others of us would look at a shoebox full of negotiable securities. This loops back into the parental problem, also. Keep in mind
that adults who're aware of monetary worth of things tend to get very...ah, how shall we say...difficult when it comes to things which have this potential to increase in value to a massive extent. 

Cards are worth, intrinsically, pennies. They're cardboard, with some printing on them, and in a few cases, some optical widget foil. They become worth a lot more because some 'authority' says they are, either by insisting that they're 'rare', or by just plain hoisting up a pricetag and seeing who salutes. Worst-case, I think, is some of the gibberish I've run across on eBay as well as those sleazy late-nite TV Home Shopping
things...you know the one, with the frantic guy on the phone, and the other jerkwad who bellows and acts like he's on a huge load of meth? Yeah...that one. With the $450 Japanese Charizards. These people are your problem, when you get down to it...not the people who've bought into their B.S. Granted, yes, they're the _immediate_ nuisance, but let's let blame lay where it should. Or the a*****e retailer who's just gotten one of those pack-resealers and is making it pay for itself and then some thru some judicious pack-rifling for holofoils to mark up. And so on. No, gang...pitch the molotovs where they _really_ belong here, not at the kids who're amped on the bad vibe these people let trickle down thru the whole Pokemon scene. Eventually if enough bad noise gets made about this smarmy aspect, it may go away.

However, one thing that won't go away is WotC, since this is where the game (at least, outside of Japan) comes from. Why are there so few adults playing this otherwise-excellent, fun, and challenging game, you ask? Perhaps it's because of certain philosophies at Wizards of the Coast. After all, on the chat report here on PoJo, you can read a comment where someone from WotC equates the Pokemon TCG with 'checkers' when compared to their Magic: the Gathering...their 'chess'. Personally, I don't see it that way. I see Pokemon as being something a little more like Go...looks simple, seems simple, but it's miles-deep once you're into it. And I see M:tG as being more like chess _only if_ you're playing chess at the bottom of 37 feet of mud. Yeah...real play clarity at work there, especially after the several years of 'growth' M:tG's seen since its rollout at GenCon several years ago. But Magic gets touted as being the 'serious' game, the one to get if you're a 'serious' TCGamer, and Pokemon gets back-seated as the 'kids game' even though the play is at once as complex as_but also_ far clearer than Magic.

If someone from WotC is reading this, dig, compadre...I never could stomach Magic: the Gathering. I thought it was pretentious as hell from Day #1, and as the hype grew up around the game in equal pace with the complaints about the poor rule and play structures, I was finding myself very glad to have stayed away from something which gradually came to be known as 'crack in a foil pack'. Pokemon, on the other hand, has none of the pretense to it. It's more 'pure', and as such, a lot more enjoyable. And the 'broken card' issues that're popping up here are nothing when compared to some of the
nonsense from M:tG; those who find certain Pokemon powers or Trainer capabilities annoying should feel grateful that we're not dealing with some of what I saw 'serious gamers' grappling with in Magic during the first couple of years following its release.

But getting back to WotC and the 'attitude' problem...another incident which keeps popping up is problems dealing with tournaments, especially WotC/DCI-sanctioned ones. Y'know...someone obviously really thought things out very carefully when coming up with the DCI rules. They work. They even work with Magic, and that's saying something right there! But Pokemon's tourneys seem to be more designed as hype-factor generators for kids...the 'pitch market', after all. So kids get leeway, and the DCI rules get used as a doormat, or even worse, whole tournaments get crafted that
preemptively assume that only kids will be playing...even though the DCI rules for Pokemon contain zippo language governing age limits or classes. Now, granted, I won't be attending my first tournament until the beginning of next month, but what I'm seeing on here is sort of daunting and makes me wonder exactly what'll happen when a 38-year-old recording engineer/composer/producer and his 26-year-old assistant show up at said tournament. In the august and sagely words of The Clash, "Should I stay or
should I go?" I'd _like_ to go, and to get my DCI rating going for the kick of seeing what I can jack it up to, but the horror stories are really giving us pause here.

In the end, well, no solutions given here, really. I'm not someone capable of giving solutions to these problems. The solutions will come down gradually, when people start cluing up that...yes...it's only a game, they're only cards, and this isn't something to wrap your life (or your kids' lives) around as a sole focus. It's meant to be fun and to be enjoyed as a diversion or entertainment, or as a logical/strategic exercise for your mind, or both. I just hope it happens soon, as I'm getting the heebie-jeebies here that this 'Poke-mania' is something that's becoming, at least for some, a 'mania' in the classical, psychological-disorder sense...and that's not where it should ever go.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go do some more tuning on this Rain Dance/Fight/Stall hybrid weird combo deck that I'm prepping. Works great...unless you have a bad initial draw, then it blows up in your face like a gross of cheap bottlerockets...

DAC Crowell
dacc@soltec.net (but not for long...switching ISPs later this month)

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