The Pokémon Women’s Tournament II took place last weekend, February 6-7, organised by Alyssa ‘TemporalVGC’ Smith, Stacey ‘AverageJoe’ Muscat, and Terran ‘Terrbear’ Seifert. The second iteration of the tournament saw interesting sets, out-there Pokémon, and an overwhelmingly positive experience for women and non-binary players. But that was no accident, as the tournament was specifically designed to be welcoming and comfortable for everyone involved.
In a time when toxicity can be rife and moderators have their work cut out on streams – especially when broadcasts involve players of marginalised backgrounds or genders – it is refreshing to see such a positive online environment. The community aspect of the tournament was never more prominent than when players shared their teams’ rental codes after they were knocked out, meaning that any viewers can use their painstakingly built teams to climb the Pokémon Sword and Shield ranks for themselves.
Popular Pokémon, Overwatch, and Hearthstone commentator Rosemary ‘Nekkra’ Kelley was on the casting team for the broadcast, and The Loadout chatted with her about community tournaments, promoting women’s esports, and keeping toxicity out of the competitive Pokémon scene.
“It’s so awesome to see the community come together to support this kind of platform,” she says. “But [Women’s Tournament II] also provides a community for people that maybe aren’t super comfortable doing regular tournaments to branch out and try tournaments for the first time.”
Nekkra is a huge Pokémon fan, and quickly rose through the broadcasting ranks after she stopped competing, even calling the shots at the 2019 Pokémon World Championship. But there’s a special place in her heart for community tournaments, and the organisers and commentary team went out of their way to make the Women’s Tournament II as welcoming as possible.
“A lot of normal circumstances are very unwelcoming,” says Nekkra. “You’ve got a lot of people that can be very toxic in the community at large. And I think creating those safe spaces is incredibly important so that people feel like they are welcome and that they deserve to be in that space.”
To do this, she focused on keeping her commentary fair but kind, and “as open and welcoming as possible”. This, she says, was the commentary team’s way of promoting positivity to both players and viewers alike. Nekkra usually avoids reading the Twitch chat when she’s broadcasting, as it can be an unwelcome distraction, especially if you see something negative that has slipped through the moderators’ tight nets. However, in a community-based tournament she was encouraged to read and interact with chat – but it seems that her and the team’s hard work paid off.
“The entire weekend I was watching, I did not see any messages that were belittling or degrading to the commentators on the broadcast,” she says. “And I saw very, very few comments that were doing the same to the players on the broadcast.”
There were, of course, a couple of minor exceptions, but Nekkra’s only message to those asking when the men’s tournament would be hosted is, “you clearly don’t understand why we’re doing this project.”
For the most part, the chat was being spammed with emotes and rhymes in support of the broadcast team and the players. “Spam these potatoes to support the commentatoes,” was a particular favourite for Nekkra, but she may be a little biased. “I’m just a little commentatoe now,” she laughs.
However, as well as a strong community spirit, Women’s Tournament II also saw some great Pokémon being played. Just a week into VGC Season 8, many players were testing out new legendary Pokémon and their potential counters. ‘CuriousCleffa’ brought a Barraskewda to try to make the most of opposing Kyogres’ rain and eventual winner Elisa ‘Salami’ utilising Umbreon to great effect despite the fact that the poor Dark-type hasn’t been considered one of the best Eevee evolutions since 2018.
Women’s Tournament II was a resounding success, no doubt thanks to the efforts of the tournament organisers, commentary team, competitors, and everyone who joined the Twitch chat to create a welcoming, inclusive, and competitive experience.