Philly Geek Spotlight: The Philly Pokemon League

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“Our Goal is to bring a Pokémon league to Philadelphia that more represents the league system found in the video games.”

Hello, Philly Geeks! We are here with another Philly Geek Spotlight; this time we are featuring The Philly Pokémon League. Yes, our city has a league with elite gym leaders; that contains Pokémon trainers looking to be the very best. They do so via the Pokémon games on DS systems and follow the same rules in the games. If you win; you get a real life badge.

You don’t need to challenge a gym leader to interact with the league; they also host monthly events throughout the city. The best way to stay up to date is to join their Facebook group. 

Talking with us today are Aaron Wolfson (Dark Type Pokémon), Carlin Rieger (Grass Type Pokémon), and Paul Bonnette (Flying Type Pokémon). These three gym leaders share their experiences in the league, their favorite Pokémon, tips to being a better player, and if there is a Philly Team Rocket.

Tell me about how you got involved with the Philly Pokémon League.

Paul Photo Credit to Emma Aprea

Carlin: I was living with Bob (Rust Badge) and Aaron (Stygian Badge) when Bob got super sick and was playing an Emerald emulator online because there wasn’t much else to do other than wrapping himself in a blanket and drinking electrolyte drinks. Aaron and I started playing emulators as well which led to everyone picking up a DS and the latest generation of games – at that time X and Y. Josh (Maelstrom Badge) picked up a DS also and he and Aaron started playing out at bars. There was a strange moment of synchronicity where the idea of becoming gym leaders ourselves came up and how we could make that feasible on an adult scale.

Paul: I saw a posting on Facebook about the League’s first meet up. The banner in the post was a picture of their badges, only two at the time, surrounded by cash and cans of PBR. This was a good indicator to me that this group had a sense of humor about itself and its aim was just to hang out and have fun. I was a casual player at the time, so I just threw a random team together and met up with Aaron (Dark Gym) and Josh (Water Gym). Since then, I would show up each league night and just hang out. Back then, the turnout wasn’t big. A lot of nights it would just be 2-4 of us sitting around hanging out. I was asked if I’d be interested in being a gym leader as well. I accepted and now I am the Flying type gym leader and I run the League’s Instagram.

Aaron: There was this weird moment where four of us had started playing pokemon in various forms after a long hiatus. Josh and I were sitting at a bar playing Pokemon X and Y and I mentioned a conversation that me, Carlin, and Bob had previously about Pokemon. Namely, if you were a gym leader what would your typing be? After some debate and so forth the conversation led to “why hasn’t anyone tried to make actual gym leaders in real life?” At that point given the connections and resources we had, it was an easy jump to…”I mean we could do it.”

Can you share your favorite part about being in the PPL?

Paul: I love the sense of community. Everyone is extremely welcoming and friendly. People will buy each other drinks, trade each other Pokémon they might need, they’ll often give each other pointers and compliments during and after a battle. I’ve made a lot of new friends and close friends because of this League.


Carlin: My favorite part of being in the PPL is hearing about how we’ve changed the way that people socialize. We’ve made a group where people can be as nerdy as they wanna be. You can socialize or not, but you’re surrounded by genuine people who are super excited about so many iterations of these pocket monsters. In all honesty, I’m pretty self-isolating so I’ve never been part of a group or community like this, so what may be pedestrian for others is completely novel and refreshing for me. I’ve almost cried many times over how just nice and generous these people can be and how they all seem to want to contribute to and better the group

Aaron: The League has been a really great experience. Creating something with people that I really care about is a really rewarding thing. I’ve made new long lasting great friends from this. Though, the best thing for me is whenever someone comes up to me and says something like: “I drove 2 hours to come to this and I just wanted to say thank you so much for creating this.” Honestly, it gets me every time.

Who would you say is the best gym leader in the PPL?

Aaron: Me. Next question….But seriously there is no good answer to this question. We all have strengths and weakness, be them from our typings or just our playstyles. That’s the great thing about Pokémon and the league.

Carlin: I would say that the best gym leader in the PPL is Bob, the Rust Gym leader. He’s focused, committed to playing his best through practice, has self-awareness and continual analysis of opponents and matches. He’s sharp as the steel team that he commands, and if you let him, he’ll do his best to reflect his skill onto you, asking who you thought your MVP in battle was and what you ran into and how you feel you could improve.

Paul: That’s a tough question to answer. I don’t really know if there’s an answer. Because we all have a different typing, that means we all have different strengths and weaknesses to look out for. Also, we all have different play styles. Some of us are better at predicting the opponent’s moves, others are good at playing the late game and winning, some are good at stalling. We have all beaten each other at one time or another, which is a good thing because it forces us to improve and get better.
…I’m just kidding. I’m the best one.

Aaron Photo Credit to Emma Aprea

What is your favorite Pokémon?

Paul: My favorite Pokémon is Dragonite. Back when I played Pokémon Red I remember it would be the VIP on my team. It is also adorable. Close 2nd is Farfetch’d. In a world with fire dragons and 20-foot tall rock snakes, it’s just a duck with a leek. It’s doing it’s best!

Aaron: Motherfucking Sableye! That creepy little gremlin is the best. Homeboy has Prankster and Magic bounce! What does your favorite get huh? Come on! Seriously, you gonna come at the king of dem spooky boys you best not miss.

Carlin: My favorite Pokémon from the original 151 is Oddish, star of many doodles in my elementary school notebooks. Also the root (pun intended) of my love for grass types.

Any tips for our readers on being a better Pokémon Player?

Aaron: The best tip for players I think is to play a bunch and to talk to people but more importantly listen. There are so many different Pokémon and strategies out there that it can seem kinda daunting that’s OK. Also, losing is almost always more helpful to getting better than winning. Talk to your opponent afterward. Ask them how they beat you. What they were thinking during pivotal parts of the match. Ask them for tips. Don’t be overly proud I guess.

Carlin: I would suggest getting into watching people battling online and then giving it a shot yourself. People who are really good at this stuff put content out there, so studying up is as easy as queueing up a YouTube video or making a small Patreon donation. Alex Ogloza used to regularly post singles and doubles videos for the current meta.

Paul: Play people that are better than you. Ask questions. Lose. When we compared our skill level now to our skill level when we first started the league, we are much more knowledgeable then we were because of how many battles we now have under our belt. We look back at our move sets or natures on Pokémon that we used to use and it’s sometimes hard to figure out what we were even thinking!

Lastly, is there a Philly Team Rocket lurking somewhere?

Paul: I’m pretty sure a few of us are really Team Rocket undercover.

Carlin: God, I hope so. We’d defeat the heck out of them.

Aaron: I mean come on we are from Philly. We threw batteries at Santa Claus. We murdered a hitchhiking robot for kicks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Team Rocket is making the Comcast center their home base.

Yali Perez

Yali Perez

I'm your typical nerd; with a passion for writing. I got my start at Geekadelphia. I've written for Riot-Nerd and Citywide Stories. I've also been a guest host for Podcast; Historical Hotties. I hope to share my colorful view as a nerd, Latina, millennial and as a mother.
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