For competitor, Pokemon is no frivolous pastime

Costa Mesa resident takes his fun seriously and aims to advance in video game championships.

November 05, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Thomas Mifflin, 23, of Costa Mesa placed first at the Pokmon Video Game Autumn Regional Championships, held in Pleasanton, Calif. last month.
Thomas Mifflin, 23, of Costa Mesa placed first at the Pokmon… (KEVIN CHANG / Daily…)

Thomas Mifflin plans to don a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt every time he plays Pokémon — at a tournament, at least.

The item, which he purchased in San Francisco, was part of his ensemble this year at the Autumn Regional Championships in Pleasanton, where he placed first. It has evolved into somewhat of a good luck charm.

Pokémon, the video game-based media franchise owned by the Japanese company Nintendo, has made its way into the worlds of anime, manga, trading cards, toys and books. Mifflin, 23, of Costa Mesa, first encountered the game — commonly associated with 10-year-old Ash Ketchum and Pikachu, a yellow, glassy-eyed, red-cheeked and zig zag-tailed character — some 16 years ago.

"When it comes to Pokémon, a lot of people think of the TV show, and then they think of what they believe is a children's game," he said. "But there's a lot of critical thinking and logical skills when you get to the higher levels of the game, and that's what really draws me in. I enjoy trying to outwit my opponent and making the right moves with my strategies so I can advance to the next round."


Mifflin, a software engineer at Boeing in Seal Beach who also enjoys a good game of Halo, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros. and Tetris, was first captivated by the social benefits of being a Pokémon player. He enjoyed going up against his friends as well as being able to approach others with whom he might not have interacted otherwise. As he grew older, many abandoned the game, but he remained hooked, now by its more intuitive aspects.

Over the years, Mifflin has, on average, spent about an hour a day armed with his trusty Nintendo DS. Although he battled with his friends for 10 hours — including bathroom breaks — during a sleepover in fall 2008, he's quick to clarify that such lengthy durations are the exception, not the norm.

He believes that Pokémon doesn't demand daily practice: It's not like basketball or any other sport that necessitates waking up early and traipsing to a gym. It's OK, he finds, to take a couple days off and return as strong as before.

What Mifflin doesn't suggest, though, is stepping away from the game for months or years at a stretch and then attempting to get back into the swing of things. Consistency is key.

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