In the weeks before the Pokémon World Championships, 10-year-old London Swan spent hours testing his moves as he prepared for video game battle against the best of the best.
London would play online or challenge his brothers to a round or two of the strategy game, stockpiling knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of hundreds of Pokémon that he would need to make it through the competition.
His dedication paid off.
Last month, London captured second place at the championships in the junior division for video game players.
Hundreds of cheering fans filled a room in the Washington, D.C., convention center, as announcers gave a play-by-play of each move by London and his opponent in a tense final game.
Though London narrowly missed the top title, he brought home a $1,500 scholarship, a trophy and a free trip to next year’s championship, as well as a guaranteed spot in the competition.
Not too shabby for his first trip to the world championships.
London said he was glad for the chance to compete, to meet other players and to travel with his family.
“It was nice,” he said.
One of London’s older brothers introduced him to the Pokémon video game about three years ago. London was drawn in by the variety of Pokémon that players can choose from and the endless scenarios that result from different match-ups.
“I liked how there were tons of different options. You could do anything you wanted,” he said.
In the video game London plays, players choose six Pokémon to form their team. Each Pokémon comes with its own set of special abilities and defenses, and the players must constantly be planning ahead for how best to engage their opponent. Each side attacks the other until one by one the Pokémon “faint” and leave the game.
London said the games take a good bit of strategy, with a dash of luck. The best advice he can give: “Don’t choose horrible Pokémon. It’s simple.”
Now that he’s past the championships, London, a fourth-grader at Baileywick Elementary, has plenty of time for the other activities he loves: exploring outside, splashing in the pool and playing on a local football team.
But he’s still eagerly awaiting the newest Pokémon game release, which will bring with it new Pokémon to test. London plans to start learning them, bit by bit, eager for his next chance to claim the world champion title.