Sunday, 03 April 2016 00:00

The Art of Getting Stoned and Staying Awake for a 24-hour Pokemon Tournament

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The beginning of my disdain for Pokemon started with my Canadian ex-girlfriend. Actually it started with my Canadian ex-girlfriend's adopted cat.

Long and pointless story short, I'm a pretty irresponsible person -- but that's only by choice because I tend to keep my responsibilities to a bare minimum. A girlfriend puts me at my maximum threshold of responsibility, and any type of pet will send me down an existential vortex that ends with me dumping everything and transforming into a hermit for the next three months. Before I broke up with my girlfriend, I bought her a Nintendo 2DS with Pokemon Blue for Christmas. It was my way of saying 'thanks' for completing screwing with my way of life. That day I also broke up with Pokemon, not out of mistrust of the franchise, but the game embodied everything about my ex, and it just had to go.

Now, two years later I find myself in one of the most ironic situations imaginable. I'm attending a charity 24-hour Pokemon Tournament in which all proceeds go to Sante D'Or, the same animal shelter in which my ex-girlfriend adopted her cat from. Could this be the universe telling me I was wrong all along? Probably, but my ego is too big to fit inside this universe anyway.

Hand-painted pictures of Pokemon characters guided everyone's path to the tournament.

The Great 24 Hour Pokemon-Athon is a concept created by John Jungleguts and hosted by Comics vs Toys, a shop that's within walking distance from where I live for all you internet stalkers. The concept is simple, raise money for a great cause through the use of highly addictive gaming -- in this case Pokemon Yellow, Blue, and Red for Nintendo Gameboy and Nintendo 3/2DS. In order to game for 24 hours, you need trainers that were more than willing to sacrifice their entire Saturday/Sunday catching a seemingly innumerable amount of Pokemons.

It all went down inside USC's Sculpture Laboratory promptly at 11 am this past Saturday. Contestants equipped with their own handhelds could sign up at the door to go head-to-head with other trainers in an NCAA basketball style bracket system. A new tournament would start every six hours and players would be judged by the uniqueness of Pokemons captured along with general game progression. Trainer registration was being handled by Mr. Jungleguts, a guy with a last name that's fit for an unlockable Borderlands character.

John Jungleguts revving up for the first tournament of the day.

John Jungleguts is also the current champion of the greatest Pokemon rap to ever be uttered by human consciousness. We got it all on video but you're going to have to wait for the official clip to be released on later this month.

The rules of the 24-hour Pokemon Tournament went on an honor system. Known glitches were acceptable to exploit. Rematches were not allowed and each person's DS was checked for any mods or hacks that could aid in unlawful Pokemon crushing. Once brackets were established and trainers had their console in-hand, contestants were free to find a cozy place inside USC's Sculpture Lab and post up for the remainder of the day/evening/morning.

Gaming within gaming. That's Matrix-level gaming.

For trainers that needed a break between tournaments, an entire room was dedicated to Super Smash Bros and Pokken Tournament. Some of the more skilled Pokemon trainers actually multi-tasked gaming on their DS and the Wii-U, an accomplishment that should fit on any respectable resume. 

Munchies were abundant. A grill located just outside the tournament kept the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs constantly wafting -- the charred remains of animal flesh, if you're into that sort of thing. I'm vegan, but I can still appreciate the smell of a well-cooked slab of meat. Junk snacks also reigned supreme, something that's only to be expected within any gaming tournament. There was also a small corner filled with hand-crafted pixel art that was mostly related to Pokemon, aside from the $35 Mega Man piece that I really wanted to snag.

My god that Mega Man art.

The night before the event I met up with Bishop from Caviar Gold. He gave me a paper bag of Cavi Cones and along with a slew of edibles to fuel me through the day. Within three hours of the 24-hour tournament, I found myself done with half the bag, so I knew I had to pace myself or end up passed out in some corner for the remainder of the day. Besides, I was there to cover the Pokemon tournament for an episode of Super High Score with MERRY JANE, so I had to focus all of my stoned cognitive ability to interview people.

I was pretty stoned, so the first interview took place lying down next to a Pokemon trainer who was in it for the long haul. Like many, Louis told me that he's been playing Pokemon practically his entire life. In fact his earliest childhood memory was capturing all 151 creatures in Pokemon Red on his Gameboy and becoming a Pokemon master by the age of five. Louis also told me how playing Pokemon gave him a model to socially interact with his fellow classmates when he was a kid. Specifically the Pokemon fight dialogue gave him a blueprint to engage with people and ultimately enabled him to overcome his childhood anxiety. Pokemon did this. Not an overpaid therapist or an appointed school psychologist. Some of you already know that I used ActRaiser 2 to overcome my debilitating social anxiety. Folks, gaming cures. That's just a blatant fact.

Louis and Troy, thumb-deep in Pokemon action.

Another dedicated trainer staying up all night.

The most metal Pokemon trainer of the entire tournament. The guy never sat down, not even once, during the event.

It's one thing to play a 3-inch monochrome screen for a full rotation of planet Earth, but to spend 24 hours watching people play Pokemon on a handheld console is an experience like no other. I started to think about what went wrong with my ex that forced me to discard her from my life. To have a person willing to redefine her entire life just to be with you is a pretty sobering epiphany. Maybe the love from her was just overwhelming, and when it was time to show that same love back, I broke down and blamed it on her rescued cat -- and Pokemon.

Whatever the reason was, I couldn't dwell on it too much because I had some quality investigative journalism to do for MERRY JANE. Letting something like 'regressed feelings' get in the way of my job was so n00bish that I snapped out of it and looked for more Pokemon trainers to interview. Oh, and I was dressed like Pikachu Jesus.

Don't let my parents see this. I don't want to spend the next two hours of my life explaining this photo.

After surveying the Pokemon trainer field, I came across a guy called 'Blazed' that runs his own gaming YouTube channel. Before I even started talking to him he gave me his card, and of course I lost it because everything I shoved inside my little Pikachu pockets ended up on the floor minutes later.

Blaze started to tell me how playing Pokemon not only kept his family together, but it made him stay off the streets in the rough Los Angeles neighborhood he grew up in. The temptation of slanging and joining gangs was always there, as it is for all inner-city youth. However Blaze made the conscious decision to go towards the Pokemon trainer lifestyle, and he told me he never looked back.

Morning went into days, days went into nights, and then back to mornings. The tournament still raged on, even when some people could not.

At this point, we were already eleven hours into the Pokemon Tournament. The only thing I had to eat up until that point was a handful of chips and salsa and whatever grilled asparagus that was left over on the snack table. After all the cannabis edibles and Caviar Gold, my diet was roughly 70% THC, so needless to say I was stoned beyond mortal recognition. When I begin to cross over to the realm of the astronomically high (a place that I've come to know all too well), I can't get enough of talking to my buddy Archie. Fortunately he was there, crushing Pokemon into the next dimension.

Some of you may remember Archie from the story I wrote about the underground Sonic the Hedgehog sex party he threw. I proclaimed him to be the King of Hipsters, and the gaming world unanimously agreed with me. More recently he's been the face of discrimination in the industry, all of which stemming from a telling interview he gave earlier this year. To make a very long and complex story short, Archie created a game and then found that his work was jacked by his white counterparts and he never received credit for it.

We spent hours talking about systemic discrimination in the gaming world and the industry's inability to properly represent its ever growing multi-cultural audience simply because #GameDevSoWhite. It's a topic that most people don't want to discuss, solely for the underlying fact that it illustrates a severe problem in such a conservative gaming industry. Just looking around the Pokemon tournament and it was easy to see the majority of tournament players were ironically minorities. However when one peers into those that make executive-level decisions in gaming along with the talent that is featured by these same companies, one would be hard pressed to find someone that isn't white. The same goes for the cannabis industry. Heck, MERRY JANE is a company owned by Snoop Dogg and every time I visited their office I noticed there isn't a single person of color calling the shots in their creative meetings.

You know, subvert discrimination and the subsequent denial of it by its agitators. It's like everyone's favorite topic at 2:16 am.

With all things with Archie, the conversation slowly shifted to flying vaginas. Specifically the flying vaginas he created for a really bizarre game he developed for an Argentinian artist.

Archie showing off his trailer for one of the strangest games I've ever played.

As the night slowly progressed, Pokemon trainers were passing out in whatever physical configuration they could assemble to get comfortable. The USC Sculpture lab is filled with uncomfortable seating situations, which ultimately led some to stay up for the duration of the tournament. There was only one comfy sofa inside the lab, and for the night it belonged to Chris, a guy that I know wears loin cloths to the beach because he told me he wears loin cloths to the beach.

Chris, absolutely passed out on the only comfortable thing to sit on at the 24-hour Pokemon Tournament.

After many conversations, and many cannabis-infused consumables later, the tournament concluded, and Tony took home the crown after being the 4x champion. His Pokemon game is godlike, and the world should commend him for it.

The full Super High Score episode of the 24-hour Pokemon Tournament will be available on later this month. Don't worry, when the episode debuts we will definitely let you know. I'm guaranteeing you will like it, stoned gamers.

In the meantime, look at my videographer Cynthia Vance looking at me looking at her in some weird Inception-like photo. Massive thanks to her for filming a guy in a Pikachu outfit for three times longer than it takes to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.


Zeus is represented by Galactus in his avatar image because he has an immature obsession with Marvel when they went all sci-fi back in the mid 80s. I'm the creator of The Stoned Gamer, MiddleEasy, and Nickelodeon's The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Just kidding about the Nickelodeon stuff, but that would be really cool. I also produced nutty things for MERRY JANE, and a former writer for High Times Magazine.

Twitter: @Tipado | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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