Can you guys believe it? We are almost twenty-four hours away from the start of the next generation of the Pokémon franchise. Those of you who are browsing from international locales, enjoy the game! To celebrate, I figured it was time to write something about Pokémon to, well, "set the mood." Living in a society where becoming a grown up means dropping things that may have been enjoyable in the past, it is nice to be able to go back to a major part of my childhood days with the Pokémon series and enjoy it for what it really is. Having been trained to look at the series in a competitive aspect, it is always interesting to hear the opinions of whether or not this game was strictly geared towards the casual audience or whether it could blur the line of hardcore competitive strategy. It is time to jump in a little bit and explore what the franchise has to offer in terms of competitive and casual gameplay. Pokémon has always been about making friends and getting together for some battling. For those who are completely unaware of the existence of the franchise and just happened to stop by, Pokémon involves raising creatures. As these creatures grow stronger, they obtain new skills and increased stat points. What the ordinary player; for instance, children, may not realize is that Pokémon gain "hidden" values called IV and EV points. These points create status gains that yield a more competitive edge, which is reliant on the nature of said Pokémon. The newest games, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, seek to make this process of earning EV and IV points easier. As a bit of foreshadowing into a future works, I will be discussing the new Pokémon games in more detail at a later date, so stay tuned for that. The past generations involved mindless slaughter of thousands of the same Pokémon to obtain the desired points. Legitimately maximizing a Pokémon's potential could take dozens if not hundreds of hours. Battle simulators such as Pokémon Online or Pokémon Showdown can do these stat gains automatically at the click of the mouse. Other means of increasing these points involved using codes and computer programs such as PokéSav or PokéGen from the Project Pokémon communities. A vast amount of players utilize these programs to create a competitive team to battle or impress their friends with. Most children, however, would be unaware such programs exist. Most children that I know of who play Pokémon merely play for the sake of the adventure, paying little attention to the minute details that the competitive battling has to offer, instead focusing on the story of friendship, as the series story lines are more geared towards children, much like the anime. Most children assemble a ragtag team of prized creatures and call it a day. Children would not care much about whether or not a Garchomp's Sand Force will mesh well with a weather team or how Blaziken with Speed Boost could be an outright banned or "Uber tier" combo. I find that children merely are concerned with just dropping the life bar down to zero. For those of us who have stuck around since Generation I or have taken a look at the Smogon University we see that Pokémon is a much deeper series than anticipated, as every single thing counts. Natures are of vital importance in assembling a team. Creating the right set of 252/252/4 EVs and IVs to mesh together with the overall theme of a team takes time to compile as well. Having participated in the Pokémon competitive scene, I can say that a very solid team has taken several hours to compile and complete. Deciding when to switch out a Pokémon and attempting to predict the opponent's next move is all part of the mystique that is competitive battling. With that, where do we draw the line and say that Pokémon is for casuals and where do we draw the lines and say that Pokémon is considered a competitive game? Is it wrong to consider Pokémon a competitive game? Tables like this are a staple to learning competitive play. This is the table of EV considerations. To consider Pokémon as a casual type game, a broad definition needs to be provided. The "casual" Pokémon gamer is considered as a player who lightly raises Pokémon without seriously considering IV/EV values, and using personal favorites to battle with friends. Casual players can also take the game pace and enjoy the story aspects. This is a very broad definition. What makes the games "casual" though? Some people think that the casualness comes from the fact that Pokémon is a children's game, a classification that I find wrong. Critics complain that the story of the games are rather weak and way too child friendly, but the story to me was never of vital importance. Other critics claim that the game just lacks innovation and the introducing of newer creatures appears more and more lackluster with each new generation. And of course, a competitive definition is one that utilizes a specific Pokémon's traits and creates a team based around these aspects. For instance, one of the most popular types of teams in competitive battling is weather based teams. Such teams could consist of Sand Storm users, complete with units such as Garchomp with specific abilities, movesets, and stat points. There are many factors to consider, and I find that the best competitive strategies are the ones that provide balance against many other team types. Most competitive players I find say that they disregard the story and focus on training and obtaining their ultimate team, either through the handheld games or through battle simulation. There is a third "tier" we could add here, and that is the group of players who aim to complete the Pokédex in its entirety, a challenge considering the fact that there are now over 700 creatures to collect. Is it wrong if you are a casual player? Absolutely not. I acknowledge that there are times when a player simply wants to get together with friends and fight. I do this all the time, actually. Meanwhile, if you are on a competitive ladder, the stakes are slightly higher with ladder rankings dependent on tier and points that are allocated, as seen on the popular simulator Pokémon Showdown. I personally stand in the middle as both a competitive and casual batting player. I obviously will not use my competitive based teams against a casual friend. It ruins the fun. Where do you draw the line when classifying yourself? To close off, these drawings of the boundaries between casual and competitive are entirely subjective based on the individual experience. Every person who enjoys the Pokémon franchise can draw their own conclusions about the games, but I would love to hear feedback. Are you more of a competitive player? Are you a casual player who loves the social aspect of Pokémon? Feel free to chime off in the comments below! I look forward to seeing you guys in Generation VI!