Pokémon GO Tournament Provides Fun for All Ages


by Jane Stahl

Planning Boyertown’s first-ever videogame tournament was a little nerve-wracking for Team Asylum’s Randy Renninger and Jake McCoach, Boyertown grads and coordinators of the event. The tournament invited players to participate in Pokémon GO, a mobile video game that got its start with characters created by Japanese electronics maker Nintendo and was hugely popular in 2014.

Equally anxious were members of Building a Better Boyertown: Ellen Martignetti, Main Street Manager; Krista Gross, Events Planner; Theresa Heist, Board Member; and Kim Evans, Assistant Main Street Manager.

But the tournament, held February 18, 2024, at Boyertown’s YMCA, turned out better than anyone expected, and a follow-up tournament is already in the planning stages for October 2024.

“I totally love Boyertown—my hometown, and I’m always eager to show it off, but we didn’t know how Boyertown would react to a videogame competition coming to town,” Randy shares. “Playing videogames is still kind of new to folks in this area. And yet, all day long, players and those who just came to watch thanked me for putting the event together.”

“Attendance was great—well over 100 people came to play or watch—people of all ages from all walks of life,” he continues. Thirteen competitors showed up to compete in Pokémon GO; ten came for the trading cards competition. A few players who had played together on-line met one another face-to-face. One player came specifically to retrieve a promised reward that had been offered by a caster during an on-line promotion for the tournament.

A goal of the tournament was an attempt to attract a new demographic for the Building a Better Boyertown organization. Admitting that it’s often tough to attract teenagers to participate in community events, Randy laughs, “Kids love videogames, and it’s our huge goal to find a way to bring new groups of different mind sets together; we share the same goal—creating a stronger community.”

The tournament attracted players from New York and Philadelphia. One of the casters—those involved in narrating the tournament play for those watching on-line—flew in from Mississippi. “As a representative from the Pokémon GO company, having him fly in to our tournament was really special,” Randy admits. “I usually see him only on-line commenting on the play, the players strategies, choices of moves or tools to use. I know he likes to support these kinds of ‘grass roots’ events that help to grow the company; he was very excited to be here.”

The play was captured on cameras to be live-streamed for people to watch on-line. “It’s so cool and such a different perspective from watching the play live while you’re at the tournament and watching it on-line as the casters narrate the play.”

“It’s fun to watch different strategies of the players—their different moves; switching the different positions they take in the game—sometimes defensive, sometimes offensive; the different tools and attachments they use and have learned to find and use through hours and hours of practice playing the game. And, knowing that they have to remain fluid throughout the game because things ‘pop up’ or change makes the play challenging and gripping to watch,” he explains.

“I especially loved that parents came with their children to play together—not just drop off the kids off at the door. One dad I talked to came and learned to play; he and his son spent time together, playing a game the kid likes. The tournament provided a time for parent/child bonding. “Unlike other community events that sometimes attract thousands throughout town, the tournament provided parents and kids something to do together—not just visit and walk around,” he adds.

Commenting on the tournament winners, Randy shares that in second place was a “famed, huge, global player.” First place, also, a big competitor, but a local player. Third place was earned by a new player, a friend of Randy’s brother, who had never competed. No one, he admits, expected a local player to win. “He was amazing. And what’s great,” Randy shares, “is that in the video game community, the players are happy for one another. There’s competition, but, in the end, players like to teach one another, help one another. The mission is to build people’s skills and build a bigger video game community.”

Randy credits the efforts of Building a Better Boyertown (BaBB) and the YMCA in the tournament’s success. “There’s so much planning involved. BaBB helped us attract participants through their promotional efforts and by lending their credibility to the event. “No one knew who Team Asylum was—we’re not big yet,” he notes. “But Channel 69 WFMZ showed up to the event; BCTV promoted the tournament; we had social media and newspaper coverage. BaBB did a lot of work collecting great vendors. They had prizes for our winners and snacks in the production room for our casters, for example.

“Plus there were ‘goodie bags’ for the players with candy from Peppermint Stick Candy Store, cookies from Frecons, minifigs from Boyertown Brickworks, and great food from Ironstone Restaurant.

Jason Koresko, owner of Deal Me in Games, gave out bundles of trading cards. We’re not used to such welcoming treatment!

“The YMCA couldn’t have been more helpful. They happily stayed late the night before the tournament to help us set up, providing tables. Their IT department made sure we had strong internet access. They even added new lines for us. They were happy to help us in whatever we needed.

“The spirit of building our own community, the willingness to learn, to help us was inspiring,” he concludes.

“We, too, didn’t know what to expect,” admits Ellen. “But there was such a positive vibe all day; everything was so well organized. And it’s true, videogames appeal to everyone. The vendors enjoyed meeting new people, being in a larger venue than what they’re accustomed to.”

BaBB's newsletter offered the following thanks: "Sunday brought in friends from all directions for our first Pokémon GO Tournament and Community Event! When local ESports organization Team Asylum reached out to us, we were quite unpracticed in how we'd come together to create a special experience for novices and experts alike in a fledgling gaming event.

"Our partnership with each other, the YMCA, and Deal Me In Games blossomed into an amazing day full of making new friendships, building a vibrant space to have fun together, and of course, lots of Pokémon! Showcasing our unique town to guests from other places was just the cherry on top as we hosted participants and talent from Harrisburg to Louisiana! We're so grateful to all who came out to check us out, and to our wonderful volunteers and partners for making it happen."

Videogamers can look forward to upcoming events perhaps in other venues around town between now and October. But they can also look forward to monthly events streamed on-line and watch the tournament event on the application Twitch and…coming soon…on YouTube.

Follow Teamasylumgg on Twitter. Teamasylum on Twitch. Teamasylum.gg—check out the website for the merchandise. Follow team members on Twitter. Watch the stream to see how people compete.

A previous article about the Pokémon Go tournament was published on The Boyertown Area Expression on January 27, 2024. 
"B Inspired" podcast episodes featuring Randy Renninger and Jake McCoach can be found on your favorite podcast platform.

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