When the COVID-19 pandemic sent the nation into quarantine, people dove into hobbies and activities to help them cope with the isolation of lockdown.
Richard Lindsay, technical director of university productions and lecturer of theatre in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, found his outlet in Pokémon Go.
As often as possible, he gathered with friends in his “quarantine bubble” and walked through nature while trying to catch virtual Pokémon. They often ended outings with a picnic.
“It was good for mental health,” he said. “Taking a walk and playing Pokémon Go does fall in mindfulness, focusing on one thing and forgetting about everything else and being in the moment.”
While isolation mandates have lifted and life has returned to normalcy in most regards, Lindsay continues to meet with friends to play the game. But quarantine was far from the first time he crossed paths with the Pokémon franchise.
In the late 1990s, Lindsay’s young son befriended a boy with family in Japan who played a card game called Pokémon and his son became a fan.
Lindsay drove around the Midwest taking his son to tournaments where he competed against kids from across the country. While his son had fun and made friends, Lindsay found himself enjoying the competitions as he bonded with other parents.
“There’s a big gaming community… and we got hooked on competing in some of those,” he said. “I found I was sitting with a bunch of parents who found their children’s interests the most important thing in their lives, so we had something very much in common.”
As Pokémon competitions became a weekly fixture in his family’s life, Lindsay realized there were areas he could help.
“Sometimes, things were not as well-organized as one would hope, so I decided to kind of learn so I could help with all the kids and people in our circle from Michigan that were going to these events to make our events better,” he said.
Lindsay collaborated with regional Pokémon Company groups to help coordinate tournament logistics. Events featured hundreds of kids scattered across venues competing in card competitions, separate rooms with Pokémon cartoons playing for younger kids and bustling film crews broadcasting the highlights of the card matches.
Eventually, the Pokémon Company contracted Lindsay as a premier tournament organizer, and he was sent to work as a staff member at conferences in cities across the country, including Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston.
While his oldest son loved playing in the card tournaments — he even went on to compete in a handful of World Championships — Lindsay’s second son enjoyed tagging along to the events for the fun atmosphere. As a teenager, he started spending time with special-needs players and grew a passion for teaching and helping others. He’s now a music education teacher at an elementary school.
Lindsay said the welcoming and accepting community helped make the Pokémon tournaments so special.
“There was a diversity in a lot of socioeconomic and racial makeups and things, but they all got together, and the parents were friends and we had this incredible unit of support and traveling together,” he said. “There’s a lot of new trans activity, activism going on — 20 years ago, we were having that, and folks were totally accepted by all the different players and people involved in this Pokémon card game and tournaments.
“Overall, it was a very large group, and everyone got together, and I think enjoyed what they had in common. Everyone saw that first before they saw any of their differences.”
A competition moment that stands out to Lindsay occurred when he was sent to San Francisco to assist with an international tournament. One night in the lobby of the event’s hotel, he noticed groups of kids from Asia and Europe clustered together using the hotel’s WiFi to play Pokémon Go.
Without American SIM cards, they couldn’t go outside to play the game. Lindsay and some of his friends decided to create virtual data hotspots, and they gathered up the kids and took them walking around the city at midnight.
NOMINATE A SPOTLIGHT
- The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, email the Record staff at email@example.com.
“I just enjoy that and embrace it, and I just find it’s very nice to have a large group of people who really enjoy doing one thing together and appreciate that,” he said. “So that’s what has endeared me to it for a very long time.”
While he is now unable to attend most competitions during the academic year he finds that his students continue to be impressed with his history with Pokémon.
Over the years, Lindsay has accumulated tens of thousands of Pokémon cards along with an assortment of swag. He’s particularly fond of memorabilia from the first Pokémon Company World Championships in Orlando in 2004.
With both of his children now grown and out of the house, Lindsay said he would recommend all parents try to get involved in something their kids enjoy.
“If you’re interested in doing things and making events better for your kids and their friends and your inner circle of your small community, that’s what you want to get into it for,” he said. “You don’t do it for yourself, you do it for your kids and the community.”