By Zara Samdani, Copy Editor In 2017, freshman Christopher Han picked up a video game controller and tried playing Pokémon Sword and Shield. He didn’t think much of it — after all, it was just a bunch of characters battling on a screen. But as he played more, he began to take a casual...
By Zara Samdani, Copy Editor
In 2017, freshman Christopher Han picked up a video game controller and tried playing Pokémon Sword and Shield. He didn’t think much of it — after all, it was just a bunch of characters battling on a screen. But as he played more, he began to take a casual interest in the game. Little did he know that five years later, he would claim a lot of fame from ranking first in an international Pokémon tournament. “When I won, I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do from here. I just made the grand finals. I am going to be on live-stream,’” Han said. “I was just shocked that I actually won.”
This past June, Han competed and ranked first in the Pokémon North American International Championships. Forty-three players competed against one another in Columbus, Ohio. They played two rounds of elimination in the video game Pokémon Sword and Shield, and their goal was to reach a certain threshold of points to proceed to the Pokémon World Championships. Han, competing in the Senior Division, received 500 points, more than double the required minimum of 200. He also competed and ranked 16th in the world tournament, making him the first in the local area to achieve such a feat. His success, however, was accompanied by some struggle.
When Han entered sixth grade, his father signed him up for the North American tournament for the first time. He had just be- gan playing Pokémon Sword and Shield but decided to enter the competition to challenge his skills.
“I didn’t do as well as I hoped in the tournament, but I still really enjoyed playing in it,” Han said. “I decided that this is something I wanted to do and be proficient at.”
For the next year, he continued to practice and develop his skills to ensure that he was well-prepared for the next interregional tournament in 2020. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I was forced to play online for two years, which was definitely a different experience,” Han said. “They (the tournaments) were a lot more boring. I realized that the atmosphere of playing in person and getting to see competitors definitely makes the tournaments a lot more fun.” Despite this two-year hiatus, Han continued to practice until the next in-person tournament. When COVID-19 restrictions receded in 2022, he made a firm decision to compete in the national tournament. He spent close to two hours everyday for one year playing Pokémon Sword and Shield. And, on June 12, Han competed in his first interregional tournament after three years.
“I went into the tournament thinking that I would do well, but (not) win,” Han said. “And I wasn’t confident in how I was playing.”
Looking back, Han appreciated the many benefits that came from the tournament. Besides gaining new skills, he met new peers with the same interests and received a large cash prize. He was also able to advance to the world championship in August 2022 in London. In the future, Han plans on using the money he received from this past tournament to compete in San Diego and Orlando, and a few international tournaments in Europe and Oceania. He also hopes to participate in the world tournament next year.
Zara Samdani can be reached at [email protected]
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