She’s got the whole world in her hands

Story: Rheya Tanner

To the people in my hometown, I’m what you might call a legend. I’m known as a traveler, a beast tamer. I have seen every jagged corner of the country, and I’ve tested my mettle against anyone who’s offered a challenge. My journey was not without its failures, but I worked my way to the top. I am a champion.

At least I am in my spare time. Most days I’m a quiet college kid from Mount Dora, always on the lookout for free Wi-Fi and a place to belong. But when I say I’m a champion, I’m not pretending. I’m playing Pokémon.

I should really say “video games.” But Pokémon has always had a special place in my heart. I even grew up watching the cartoons and collecting the cards. Of course, over time I outgrew all that, but I never stopped playing the games. Why would I? They give me new rivals to defeat, new strategies to try, and a whole new world to explore. But more than that, I love having a bunch of insane pets. Have you ever owned an electric zebra? A psychic cat? A wolf made of rocks? I have. Don’t tell my mother.

See, I’ve never been the athletic type (read: I’m made of cardboard), so video games are the only way I can do anything physically impressive without my insides coming out. Even better, I can do it while I shell pistachios.

But I wouldn’t say there’s no skill involved. In fact, there’s a minimum skill level required to beat a game. If you can’t finish level three, you will never get to level four. Period.

That’s really why I stick to Nintendo instead of Xbox or PlayStation: I’m bad at video games, and I know it. I just can’t think fast enough. But my ineptitude makes me admire people with lightning-fast reflexes and Olympic thumbs who conquer frustratingly difficult games without breaking a sweat.

Dedicated gamers are everywhere, actually—in places you wouldn’t expect. The barista who made your mocha might be a level 84 paladin and well-respected leader in his World of Warcraft guild. The woman who filed your taxes might have beaten every Legend of Zelda game three times over since 1987. The girl whose article you just read might very well be a Pokémon champion—fivefold.

Every time I pick up my controller, I’m the legend of my own story. I’ve seen things I’d never have seen, done things that would’ve been impossible, and felt the sharp satisfaction of a job well done. And I’m definitely not the only one.

Sometimes I worry what others might think. I wonder if level-headed business people see gaming as a waste. My boss, Doug, sits in meetings with his brow furrowed and his eyes locked onto his phone, always deep in thought. But if I crane my neck and catch a glimpse of his screen, I see a familiar patch of green and it makes me smile. He’s catching Pokémon.