Violence seems to be everywhere these days: on trains, in movie theaters, and in schools. But at a Pokemon championship?
Since 1995, Pokemon has been one of the most successful global franchises in pop culture, and its annual Video Game World Championships is the brand’s marquee event.
Held in Boston for 2015, the tournament brings the leading players from around the world to compete against one another for the title of World Champion in a variety of age divisions, and a total of $500,000 in scholarships.
Along with countless spectators and Pokemon fanatics, over 1,000 invited players descended on Beantown over the weekend with their tremendous arsenal of skills in tow, but two Iowa men showed up with a different kind of arsenal by way of a 12-gauge shotgun, AR-15, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Violence Aborted, Weapons Discovered
James Stumbo, 27, and his friend Kevin Norton, 18, two players invited to compete in the “Masters Division” (as they’re considered old by Pokemon standards, falling into the “Born in 1999 or earlier” category), teased their upcoming performance on social media by posting pictures of real guns and saying they would be “killing the competition.”
After police were notified, authorities arrested Stumbo and Norton on the premises of the Hynes Convention Center, and after a search warrant was obtained for the men’s vehicle, law officers discovered the ammunition within.
Apparently, their social media brags were not metaphorical.
“They could have done a lot of damage, hurt a lot of people,” Paul Fitzgerald, commanding superintendent of the Boston Police Department (BPD) said. “The BDP detectives did a great job in the stop and prevention of a potential tragedy.”
Though the large majority of Pokemon video games are labeled as “E for Everyone” with “Comic Mischief” and “Mild Lyrics,” others believe the series, which includes trading cards and a television show, has evolved into a more violent form over its long history.
“Even cartoonish children’s games increase aggression,” an Iowa State University study concluded in 2009. “Labeling certain types of media violence as ‘fantasy’ violence is misleading and may actually serve to increase children’s access to harmful violent content by reducing parental concern.”
It seems many of the would-have-been shooters’ friends took the messages to social media as jokes, laughing at the impending violence. Stumbo told police his Facebook posts were taken out of context, but couldn’t provide permits to be in possession of the firearms.
Both are being held without bail until their court hearing on September 1st.
The object of Pokemon is to collect all of the available species in the fictional world, so a correlation to more traditional table card games like poker can be made, because the ultimate goal is to amass things. Beating other players can obviously lead to escalated tempers, an inherent part of poker’s Wild West days, but Pokemon?
Despite being aimed at young kids and adolescents, Pokemon isn’t free from potential violence, as demonstrated over the weekend.
Generally considered appropriate for children as young as five, violence can nonetheless stem from nearly any game in today’s Internet-sharing, trash-talking, social media-obsessed world that fuels competition, sometimes to the point of bloodshed.
“We went by the words they used,” Fitzgerald deduced. “The same people who said the things they said, brought the weapons they said they would use.”