Pokémon’s Control Society and How it May be Breaking

Every Pokémon TCG player dreams of qualifying Pokémon World Championships. This is a fact.

Pokémon World Championships, referred to simply as Worlds, is an annual tournament held in August that gets the best players from around the world together to determine who that year’s World Champion will be. The winner get the deck they used printed and sold at major retailers, significant cash/scholarships, and a whole lot of bragging rights.

There is a tournament before the main event called the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) where players can win spots in the main event. However, the real dream is to qualify before the event. To do this, a player has to accumulate Championship Points. Championship points are rewarded in proportion to the place you won (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc) and how many people were at the tournament.

How many Championship Points? Here lies the subject of my blog post. In mid-September, TPCi (The Pokémon Company International) announced that the amount of Championship Points necessary to qualify for worlds was going to increase by 100 around the world.

After this announcement, the Pokémon community exploded with outrage. Through forums, Facebook groups, memes, and legitimate articles, players raged against the change TPCi had made. The problem in essence, is that to get this amount of Championship Points, players would have to spend an almost impossible amount time practicing, traveling and playing to have a shot at qualifying.

Memes made by players in reaction to TCPi's changes to Championship Points

Memes made by players in reaction to TCPi’s changes to Championship Points

This very visible issue serves to reveal a formerly concealed control society that has existed in this community since the beginning. As Delueze defines them, control societies do not engage their participants or ask permission, they just manipulates the sense of normalcy. The ruler of the control society of Pokémon TCG is TPCi; they are a disembodied entity that creates the rules of the game that are taken for granted by every player. Everything related to competitive play including structure of tournaments and game play, what cards are playable, what ‘cheating’ is, is defined by them. And while players are never forced to abide by their rules (their rule is not law), everyone follows them because it would not even occur to someone not to- in most players minds the rules are and always have been.

A control society is an extreme form of a paradigm Heidegger explains as Enframing. He says we all operate within a framework of what we believe to be correct. By accepting the framework and moving forward on the same path, under the same assumptions, as before, we block the possibility of revealing alternatives. A control society’s ability to create norms for a community and turn those norms into perceived truths is what makes it a form of Enframing. However, the boundaries of Enframing are fluctuating and permeable- we are not trapped.

The flip side of Enframing is Revealing- when you realize something has always been there once it’s gone or broken (ie. realizing how much electricity you use when the power goes out). This Revealing, is what happened this month in Pokémon TCG. TPCi had been running smoothly and unnoticed by the players until they took a misstep  that revealed how much of control society they had become. They exposed the power they had over the players, and the players reacted violently to the realization that this company (“but in a society of control, the corporation has replaced the factory” says Deleuze) has been controlling the goals, aspirations and decisions of players for years.

If TCPi has been calling the shots for so long, what was it about this decision that made people finally take notice? Earlier in the month TCPi also announced that players would have to start paying for tournaments for the first time ever- a decision that sparked a few snarky Facebook comments and nothing more. What was it about the Championship Points? Marx writes, “The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way, labor time, but rather disposable time.” (708) Having to get more Championship Points, means having to go to more major tournaments, means more travel time. It also means having to win more tournaments which means spending more time building decks, more time practicing online, and more time going to leagues. All of this means that more free time will be spent on getting to worlds. What TCPi has done is create an artificial goal that forces players to give up more of their free time, whose importance has been established by Marx as “the measure of wealth”. This demand was too great, and, like the power going off, made everyone take notice and start to realize the controls TCPi had had on them all along.

Tori Hill

 

Deleuze, Gilles. “Postscript to the Societies of Control”. L’Autre journal, no. 1 (May 1990). Web. Sept 24.

 

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology”. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1977. Web. Sep. 23 2013.

 

Marx, Karl. “The Fragment on Machines”. The Grundrisse. (1857-8): 690-712. Web. Sep. 23 2013.

 

~ by torifranceshill on September 24, 2013.