I went to a Pokémon tournament and was way out of my depth

Ha! You better have Burn Heal

national noad

I went alone to a Pokémon Tournament in a comic book café and didn’t actually mind it.

Who would actually go inside Dark Matter, Durham’s comic book cafe?

Although you may have seen it on your everyday Durham wanderings, you may have even been tempted to peer through the window with some kind of absurd curiosity, you won’t have ever gone inside.

Who would?

In an effort to enlighten the masses, I took it upon myself to enter this mysterious establishment and uncover its dark secrets.

11042132_10153104349776308_1101275560_nThe cafe holds four themed nights every week: board games, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokémon, and Magic the Gathering.

I have some previous (and, might I say, extensive) experience with Pokémon, so I thought I would turn up and see what exactly it had to offer.

Arriving with a Nintendo in hand fifteen minutes early, I was ready to battle some nerds. But I was greeted by a relaxed atmosphere, and what I thought to be quite a large number of people of around 20.

They ranged from secondary school youths (one got picked up by his mum, poor lad, she wasn’t even fit) to gentlemen with notable beards and deplorable haircuts. All were armed, as I was, with some kind of Pokémon device or a box full of trading cards.

Costing £5, the tournament also gives you food or even a pack of trading cards. What sane individual resist those? As well as a decent menu, as one might expect from a café, there’s also an assorted stash of nerd items in the shop.

11026539_10153104349606308_1495774886_nWhether it’s comics, posters or assorted other “nerd mercy”, its there along with a particularly dashing Captain America dressing gown.

No stranger to Pokémon, I can name all 151 original Pokémon and even had a Level 100 Charizard on Pokémon Yellow. I watched the cartoon at the weekends as a child and own the latest installment of the video game franchise. Cuff me.

But I was way out of my depth at the tournament.

Names were entered into the lists like some kind of medieval jousting tournament. But with Pokémon instead of horses. And with spotty teens instead of knights.

There are two forms of combat – the regular video game on the Nintendo DS (or Gameboy, as I still insist on calling it) or the mythical realm of the card ‘duel’, unknown to us mere mortals.

Like everyone else who ever went to a primary school, I had plenty of Pokémon cards in my day, but never had I witnessed the elusive ‘duel’.


It began, and I had a look at a few tables, assuming I would swiftly pick up the rules and realise what was happening. Did I fuck. The world of card duelling is one of strict rules and complex strategy, and well beyond learning in the brief period I spent in its vicinity.

This stuff makes Plato’s Forms look like The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I soon reverted to playing the videogame, wherein I defeated the first challenger (who had bought the game the previous week) and was summarily crushed by the next.

I felt like Ash in episode 80 when he loses to Richie in the fifth round of the Pokémon League. You know the one.


I went in expecting a nerd-fest, where I would find four awkward virgins, two Japanese schoolgirls, and the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

Despite the questionable popularity of the male ponytail, what I found was a buzzing social scene, a good laugh, and a very welcoming atmosphere. Honestly, although the card duelling wasn’t exactly for me, I would recommend the place.