Pokemon games, with the exception of Pokemon Crystal, are sadly inaccessible to the blind. There is no room for self-discovery or the thrill of exploration from following a walkthrough. The inability to play such a popular franchise is is a heavy blow. But at least one can enter the world of competitive pokemon battling as a sort of alternative.
Newer generations of the Pokemon games have allowed players to battle each other using wireless capabilities built into game consoles such as the Nintendo DS if their opponents were physically nearby. Pokemon Showdown allows players all over the world to battle over the Internet, mind to mind. Mental competitions such as chess and other strategy games are deeply satisfying, and every new game is an object lesson that can teach a person about the way both he and his opponent operate, make decisions and react to the unexpected. Too many games are about pure luck, having fast reflexes or other short-term tactics; strategy games reward long-range planning and subtle maneuvering to attain a goal. If this sounds appealing, Pokemon Showdown may be just right for you.
Pokemon Showdown is played in a web browser. Firefox is the browser of choice and the one that the author uses. Internet Explorer 11 is also compatible. You may or may not be successful using something else.
Creating an account is, unfortunately, the most inaccessible part of the site, due to the lack of labels on the buttons. Luckily the process is fairly short and should not take you more than ten minutes.
- Go to the Pokemon Showdown homepage, http://play.pokemonshowdown.com
- Click the Choose name button.
- Type in a name in the edit box that appears, then tab to the Choose Name button and activate it. The name can be no longer than about 15 characters in length.
- If it asks for a password, the name is already taken. Click the Choose name button and try another name. Continue doing this until the password field does not appear.
- From the top of the page, move down until you see the name you chose. There are two buttons after it. Click the second of these buttons. This reveals the website options, which includes your account, at the very bottom. One of the new options is the register button. Click this button.
- Type a password in the password field, then confirm it in the next field. In the “what is this pokemon?” field, type “pikachu”. Then click the Register button. You are now registered.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page; you should still notice the website options. If you do not, click the second button after your name to reveal them.
- Check the “disable animations” checkbox. This should speed up the battles and will prevent stray text from appearing and disappearing as you battle.
- Now go back up to your name and click the first button. This opens the audio options. Check the “mute sounds” checkbox. This turns off the battle music, which is loud, and the pokemon warcries, which are unnecessary. Unfortunately you need sighted assistance if you want to turn off one or the other; the volume sliders are completely inaccessible to the keyboard.
- Refresh the page. Your account is complete.
The main page has a fairly simple layout. Below the Pokemon Showdown logo, you can click the home link to go back to base. Below this are links to switch back to open battles or chatrooms with buttons next to them to close them, and below these is your name, with the audio and the options buttons next to it.
Below that is the news section. There are two buttons before the news heading. One of them completely hides the news. You can click the home link or refresh the page to get it back. The second button simply collapses the news.
After the news is the ladder battle options. If you want to dive right into battling, the random battle option is selected by default. Click the “random battle” button if you want to select a different tier or metagame; a list appears at the bottom of the page with the various available metagames, of which there are many. The random battle gives you a random team and pits you against another random player with a random team of its own, as a sort of quickstart. Once you select a metagame such as random battle, you will notice that the random battle button has changed into what other metagame you picked.
Below the metagame option is the team selector. If you chose a random battle, this will display “Random Team” and be unavailable. Otherwise you can click this button to select a team you have built in the team builder.
Below the team selector is the “Battle! Find a random opponent” button. The site will search for a player of comparable skill level to you for you to fight. Depending on the metagame you chose and the time of day, you may instantly find an opponent, or the server may just search for eternity. If you are tired of waiting for someone, click the cancel button, and try a different metagame or wait till a more active time in the United States.
The next button is the team builder button. This lets you build your teams, back them up, or restore them should you lose them or move to another computer. Pokemon Showdown stores your teams as a cookie on your computer, so clearing your cookies will erase your teams. Your teams also do not follow you to different computers. So it is good that you can easily back them all up and restore them later.
The Ladder button allows you to view top players for various metagames. These are the most skilled players, winners of many games against similar opponents. The author does not look at this page often, because he gets demoralized when he compares his low rating to those of the top players on the ladder.
Watch a Battle
This option allows you to watch a battle that is currently happening. Options appear at the bottom of the screen. You can click the “all formats” button to filter the listings by metagame, since there are often a few thousand battles going on at a time.
Find a user
Choosing this button reveals an edit field to type in the name of the user. Click the “open” button to see if the user exists. If he is offline, the most you can really do is click his name to open a new window with some statistics about him such as the date he joined, and his ranks on any official ladders. If he is online though, it will let you know; you can then challenge the player to a battle. If you challenge the player, go back up to the top of the page, choose your metagame and team as before, and click the challenge button and wait for him to accept. This battle is not rated since the opponent was not random.
Warning: the ladder battle options look almost similar and are below the challenge options. If you accidentally click the “Find a random opponent” option, you will have to fight the random opponent that the game chose for you if you are not able to cancel the search quickly enough, or forfeit.
You can also chat one-on-one with the user you found by clicking the chat button. This opens a chatroom with you and the other user.
Below all of this is the page footer with some miscellaneous links. You will probably notice a sort of “action center” below the footer, which lets you quickly join chatrooms or watch an active battle. This generally is more clutter than convenience, so click the hide button to get rid of it. You will have to click the Hide button every time you reload the web page to keep it away.
Unless you are feeling lucky all the time and are willing to random battle forever, you will need to build a team. Click the Team Builder button.
If you have any teams in your cookies, they will show up here. A friendly bot will quiz you on how good your day was; you can simply ignore this and scroll down, or give it an answer if you are so lonely that your only sollution is to converse with a bot. Click the New Team button to start building.
The “list” button will return you to the previous page so you can build a new team or manage other teams you have. After the list button is an edit box where you can name your team. This is purely for convenience; no one else will see it but you. The import/export button allows you to paste in a team you already have on your computer, or save the current state of your team somewhere else. Simply modify the text in the box if you want, then choose save, and your team will be imported accordingly.
Under format, choose “select a fformat”, then scroll down to the bottom to choose a metagame for which your team will be built. Otherwise, it will default to “anything goes”, where nothing at all is banned. Once you choose the metagame you want, you will see that its name has replaced the “select a format” button.
Now scroll down to the “add pokemon” button. This will allow you to start adding Pokemon to your team manually.
You are now in an edit field where you can start typing the name of a pokemon you want to add. Above this box is an import button which lets you paste in a premade Pokemon and move set, such as one found on Smogon. Below this box is a list of search results which filters down if you type. The buttons at the top are column headers that sort the list by that column header. For example, if you want to see the fastest pokemon, click the spe button and the list will sort itself by speed. Only the first 20 pokemon are loaded; to load more, scroll to the bottom of the list and pass the spacebar through to the application. For NVDA, this is insert-f2, space. For Jaws, this is insert-3, space.) You will notice a “more” button at the bottom of the list, but it doesn’t actually appear to work, so this is what you have to do.
Once you’ve found a pokemon you feel like adding, hit the enter key on its name. You will be returned to the edit boxes. Filling in the other fields works similarly to before. You can search for something by typing it in and scrolling down. However, you must be careful that you do not focus other edit boxes or the options below will change. This is probably not much of a problem in JAWS, but in NVDA you must use the review cursor, or simply press h to move past the edit boxes to the listings. For example, in the item box, you may want to give your pokemon a berry, but you forgot which one, since there are forty or fifty different berries. So type “berry” into the box, then hit h to navigate to the items heading and start browsing. Strangely, unlike the pokemon list, the list of items automatically loads more when you focus on the last item currently loaded without you having to do anything extra. Once you find the right item, hit enter and your focus moves to the next option.
Besides edit boxes, there are also two buttons. The first one is basic details. Click this button to set the pokemon’s level, gender and happiness. Once you are done, you can simply focus another edit box or click another button to continue.
The second important button is the EV’s button. Effort values give the pokemon a bit of extra stats according to your choice. Once you click this button you will see a table with the base stats of the pokemon, followed by 6 edit boxes where you can type in how many EV’s you want to give to each stat.
below these boxes is the number of EVs you still have left. Then you can see how many remaining EVS you can put into each stat (the max is 252 per stat), and how many you already have used, which is 0 unless you type a number into the above edit boxes.
The IVS are usually all set at 31 to show that you bred the perfect pokemon. The only time this would be different is if you chose a “hidden power” move, when some of them would be lower. Lowering IVS can be useful in some situations, such as to lessen damage from foul play, which uses your attack stat against you. Of course, if your pokemon is a physical attacker, it’s not worth lowering your attack stat. Other reasons to lower IVS, as well as a discussion of EVS, can be found in the Smogon articles.
The 6 last numbers are the pokemon’s actual stats with level, EVs, IVS and nature factored in. Oddly enough, the nature selection is below the actual stats.
Once you’re finished setting this first pokemon up, scroll back up past the first edit box, and click the unlabeled button. You will appear back at the edit box where you can search for a new Pokemon to add.
Once you have finished your sixth pokemon, the unlabeled button will no longer be visible. Click the “team” button to go back to your entire team, then find the validate button to validate it. If it says that your team is valid, then you are good to go. Otherwise, it will tell you where the problem lies. Click the button with the name of the offending Pokemon and fix it. Once you’re finished, Go to the top of the page, find the teambuilder link, and click the button to the right of it to close the Team Builder. You are returned to the home page where you can now use your new team to battle people.
The battle interface is really easy to use. At the top, the current field effects are displayed, such as stealth rocks, spikes, reflect, etc. Below this are the pokemon currently in play. The current hp and status of each revealed pokemon is displayed below this; if you are playing the current generation, all pokemon are shown. If you are playing a past generation, only the pokemon you have revealed are shown. Below this is the battle log which shows everything that has happened. It dynamically updates as you play; new events are at the bottom.
You can chat with your opponents during battle by typing into the second edit box and pressing enter to send. Use shift-enter for a multiline chat. For some odd reason, typing in the first edit box doesn’t work. This is the same for other chat rooms also.
Below this is the action area, where you can make your moves. if you have already made your move, you will have to wait for your opponent to make his before you can continue. If you want to change your move, click the cancel button, but if your opponent moves before you can do this, it’s too late. If you want to rush your opponent, click the battle timer button, which will force him to do something within a 150 second limit or lose the battle.
Really important: Keep the browser window maximized. Otherwise the interface layout changes and becomes more clunky. If the interface is still clunky and the window is maximized, check your screen resolution settings, because they are probably too low.
Chatting in a chatroom works the same as chatting in a battle room. Type a message into the second box, then hit enter to send. Below the edit box you will see a list containing buttons for all the users in the room, any of which you can click for user options.
Competitive Pokemon is hard. Even if you are familiar with the cartridge games to any extent, it is much harder to outthink a real human than to outthink a random number generator. Smogon University has a wealth of information about all six generations of competitive Pokemon, so that you will be better equipped to start battling and can hone your strategy and tactics. The articles are especially helpful when you are first beginning, though they may seem daunting at first. This article is a very good introduction to the environment that you will find yourself in when competing. These articles are a nice next step, containing general introductory information as well as more detailed information about other aspects of play. The site also has information about how best to use each Pokemon competitively so that you can build a cohesive team.
It’s really not all too difficult to enter the competitive Pokemon scene. You risk nothing but your time, and stand to reap the unique reward of outthinking your opponents slowly and surely as you get better. If you still have questions or think some accessibility information is missing, write a comment, or mention me on Twitter (@c_macintosh5).
Become the greatest master!