No. 11 is a good marker for Jeremiah Sheppard of Fort Wayne.
First, it’s how old he is. Second, it’s his world ranking among the junior division in the video game Pokémon World Championships this weekend in Washington, D.C.
The championships are by invitation, and only 16 people qualified in the United States. Jeremiah will be competing with players from more than 30 countries, including Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Italy.
“I’m very excited,” he says.
Jeremiah has been playing the Pokémon video game for about two years, he says. He also plays the traditional Pokémon card game but prefers the video game. “I think it is funner,” he says.
The difference is nothing more than technology.
The Pokémon video game is played on the Nintendo DS platform. Players link up their DS systems and battle their Pokémon characters. Each character is able to gain experience points based on a player’s training. The more experience points, the better and more powerful the characters are in battle.
As Jeremiah explains, characters are trained to attack, for speed and other abilities to be used in tournaments. On the day of this interview, Jeremiah was training for the championships. And just like him, others will be coming to the tournament with as many experienced characters as possible. “I’m not worried,” the Shambaugh Elementary fifth-grader says.
This is Jeremiah’s last year in the juniors division. Next year, he will compete in the seniors division. After that, it’s the masters division.
To qualify for the world championships, Jeremiah had to compete in many other tournaments to gain enough qualifying points. He has competed in Indianapolis, Ohio and St. Louis.
If he wins the world championship, he will get a $3,500 college scholarship and a trophy. The trophy is what Jeremiah likes best.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says John Sheppard, Jeremiah’s father.
And it’s not just Jeremiah who plays. His younger brother also competes, and after all these years of going to tournaments and sitting around waiting for the games to begin, his father also started playing. He uses his skills to help his sons train for their next Pokémon battle.
“I learned it for them,” he says.
Sheppard likes the strategy involved. “It’s like a game of chess with a lot of potential moves,” he says.
But he admits that by next year, Jeremiah will be far ahead of his skill level. And yes, Jeremiah says, there will be a next year.