Pokémon in the Bronx

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By Felicha Stevens

Every Monday evening, students and adults gather for a very public Pokémon match hosted by the Truly Urban Hobby Shop on the Grand Concourse.

Vincent Darcy, 22, and his girlfriend Jasmine Nieve, 22, are New Jersey residents who travel to the Truly Urban Hobby Shop every week just to battle other players. “I mostly play in Jersey, but coming to the Bronx gets me out the house to meet new people among the TCG (Trading Game Community),” said Darcy.

Pokémon was released in 1996 and has expanded into a wide ranges of products: cards, animated television shows, tournaments, and Androids and i-Phone apps. People just can’t seem to get enough of Pokémon!

July, 6, 2016 marked the release of the Pokémon Go app which caused pandemonium in the app world. It was in such high demand that it made over $9 billion within the first couple of days of its release. The objective of the game is to “Catch Them All,” similar to the popular Pokémon slogan that was created 21 years ago. The “them” refers to Pokémon characters. There are 804 characters in total.

The Pokémon website says the app is intended to appeal to a player’s desire to travel. The Pokémon video game series has used real-world locations such as the Hokkaido and Kanto regions of Japan, New York, and Paris as inspiration for the fantasy settings in which its games take place.”

Photos of players who’ve won battles and trophies from battling in Pokémon card games hang on the Hobby Shop walls. In the middle of the store, players play, sitting across from one another. “We get all kinds of players here at the store, firemen, you name it,” says the shop owner Mel. “On Sundays we have Force of Will events, which is another game played by players. Saturdays we get Dragon Ball Super players battling each other and on Mondays we have Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh players. It keeps kids out of trouble.”

Jonathan Gonzalez, 28, started organizing events in the shop in August 2017.  Gonzalez says he began the Hobby Shop Pokémon event to promote games in the area because most were in downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn or upstate. “I also want to expand the game I did as a child,” he said. “If I get new people I teach them.” Gonzalez uses software from the companies to set up the players to battle against each other. “We input their name and their game tag number and then the system shuffles them randomly.”

Players take Pokémon very seriously, he says, because it is competition gaming.

Each table is set with cards, a card mat, and dice. Players are required to bring in their own cards, but the store owner sells cards behind the glass counter. Dwayne McFadden is a Yu-Gi-Oh player who has been playing since 2002. On this particular Monday night he won with 3,500 points.

McFadden: “I just happen to come home from work and was in the neighborhood I started watching the Anime first and then started playing the card game.”

TBJ: “What’s the objective of the game?”

Mcfadden: “You are supposed to take your opponents life points down to zero from 8,000.”

TBJ: “Do you play in tournaments?”

McFadden: “I’m more of a casual player than anything else. Meta players play in tournaments and travel, and causal players stay local and play local.”

TBJ: “Do players have to bring their own cards to events?”

McFadden: “Yes. If they have friends they can borrow their cards.”

TBJ: “How do you know who you’re going to play on Monday nights?”

McFadden: “There is this thing called ‘Brackets List.’ People’s name moves up in ranking when they win. The organizers pick the players.”

TBJ: “What’s the difference between this game and all the others?”

McFadden: “All of them have different rules, and card effects.”

TBJ: “Why did you start with Yu-Gi-Oh?”

McFadden: “This is the card game I started with.”

The top three card players at the Truly Urban Hobby Shop get a prize.




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