One of my favorite PAX traditions is the PAX Pokémon League, which features a group of a live fans who take on identities as Pokemon gym leaders and accept challenges in the Nintendo Handheld Lounge throughout the show.
I had my first run-in with the group at PAX East earlier this year when I wandered into the Nintendo Handheld Lounge and happened upon one of the group's meet-ups. I only had a one day pass to that show, so I didn't have time to challenge the whole league, but I made a mental note to mount a proper challenge during PAX Prime. And sure enough, I spotted one of the tell-tale green scarves almost immediately when I rolled into the convention center Friday morning.
The trainer was a hybrid electric and steel-type leader going by the name of Emre. Like me, he discovering the PPL during PAX East, and he decided that he wanted to join up as a gym leader himself. Out of the leaders I've seen, he's opted for more conventional street clothes. In fact, compared to other gym leaders, he's downright conservative. Many opt for full-on cosplay with cloaks, lab coats, and anime hair. Emre's distinguishing characteristic is a tiny plush Joltik that he carries with him, which he says is a hint of what to expect when battling him.
I'll admit, I cheated a bit. If I had been honest, I could have rolled out a full fire-type team and engaged in a battle of monotypes. I kind of wanted to win though, so I dropped Swampert in with Scizor, Jolteon, Talonflame, Haxorus, and Mega Mawile (yes, yes, Mega Mawile is banned on Smogon, but the battle was all in fun), and we were off and running.
I'll spare you a full recap, but it was actually a fairly close battle in the end. I hadn't reckoned with him using Stealth Rock and Sticky Web, so my team had a tough time with speed drops and residual damage. His Scizor and Mega Manectric were particularly troublesome, utilizing a fairly effective Volt Change-U-Turn combo while offering very good coverage. Scizor, Talonflame, and Haxorus all went down to some combination of Overheat or Bullet Punch. In the end though, Mega Mawile won the day with a final Sucker Punch attack and I escaped with a 2-0 win.
After the battle was finished, he handed me my prize:
Ultimately, I probably won't be able to make it all the way to the champion, if only because I won't really have enough time to hang out and battle my way through all of the gym leaders. But I'm still glad I participated, because the PPL is really the thing that makes PAX stand out in my mind. Get beyond the constant controversy surrounding the event and the massive crush of nerds fighting for t-shirts, and you can still find this lovely little gem of an event put on fans who have always wanted to have their own live Pokemon league. They're the real champions of PAX.