Video Games

Coolidge Pokémon Champ Zack Thornberg on How Battling Is Like Chess

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How long have you been playing Pokémon video games? I've probably been playing the games since I was 9. And I've been playing competitively at tournaments since I was 11.

What's the secret to your success? Well, there are a lot of different strategies I could talk about. Basically, I focused on winning my matches quickly without trying to go into a lot of in-depth setup, which a lot of people do. Which is fun in testing I've found, but it isn't as effective overall.

How many hours a day or week would you estimate you play the game? Probably about six or seven hours a week. I do online simulator testing.

Um . . . for Nintendo? There are certain groups of people that really like the game who have programmed simulators to work just like if you were playing the game on the computer.

Do your parents restrict how much you can play each week? Oh, no. I practice what I need because my parents are very supportive because it's a thinking game unlike a lot of other games that are a lot of fighting. It's a game that is a lot like chess.

How so? It's a lot of turn-based strategy and what you're doing is you're trying to defeat the other four Pokémon of the opponent. You each choose a team of six out of 650-something Pokémon. And then for each match, you choose four of them to try to beat the other four of the round.

Most people think Pokémon is just the cartoon or card game. How hard is the video game? Well, it depends on your age division. In my division, which is the senior, it's difficult the higher you get. It depends on . . . a lot of it is your match-ups because different teams counter different strategies. It's a difficult game to win at a competitive level.

Do people try to cheat at these competitions? Sometimes, but it's very risky. People rarely do now because they have made a lot of ways to catch hackers and cheaters.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.