Evolution is a major aspect of Pokémon, and Woodridge native Matt Sybeldon has evolved from a 6-year-old playing a Gameboy to one of the top Pokémon players in the country.
Sybeldon qualified last month for the 2013 Pokémon U.S. National Championships after he won a regional championship October 14 in Philadelphia.
For those unaware of what Pokémon is a video game franchise in which players collect and battle with various species of Pokémon (Pikachu is commonly associated with the game). It's one of the most popular video game franchises.
Sybeldon, 20, first started playing on a Gameboy when he was 6. Now he's a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh studying electric engineering, but he still finds time to compete.
In the competition format, players essentially build teams—not unlike a fantasy football team—and compete with others' collections of Pokémon.
The national championship will be next summer, and a World Championship follows. I talked to Sybeldon about what interests him in the game and what he's learned from it.
Patch: So how do you play this game?
Matt Sybeldon: You start out with building a team of Pokémon within the game, develop a strategy and register at the regionals. Then you play a bunch of opponents in succession. You can bring six Pokémon, but for each individual battle you choose four. I have my favorite Pokémon, but none are considered good enough for teams. Like Jigglypuff.
Patch: What interested you about Pokémon in particular?
MS: I was 6 when I first started playing on the original Gameboy. My first exposure was just as a Saturday morning cartoon. I asked for games my birthday and really liked it. It’s not a high-maintenance game. You don’t have to play it all the time to be good at it.
Patch: How do you get involved in such a tournament?
MS: It kind of starts like we’re just playing these games like everyone else, as a kid. Then you start battling your friends and you want to win. The competition comes out. Then there's online communities that started, and after a while that’s how the video game championships came about. It’s become a real-life event.
Patch: Some might say it's just a video game. What else do you learn from this?
MS: My mental math on the fly is pretty good because of pokemon. You need to quickly estimate how much damage a certain move could cause. I also learned risk management; this game is 100 percent risk management. It's also useful, with electric engineering, for learning to design an experiment really quick. You need to assess what's happening quickly and learn from it.
Patch: What do you need to do to prepare for the World Championship?
MS: Between now and then I need to build another team that’s viable. Beyond that there’s not much to be done but keep playing. It’s more strategizing before you actually get the Pokémon. There are simulators that battle and let you practice with a certain team. :et’s say the team you thought of isn’t very good. Then you try out other teams in fighting to see how it works out.
But this is like my offseason time. I have schoolwork, friends to hang out with. I also play guitar and like working out. Other than that i don’t have much time for video games.