James H. and Pikkdogs Discuss Pay to Read Pokemon Sites

by James Hall ~ June 2nd, 2012.

A big hello to all you OHKOers out there.  This is Pikkdogs and James here with a different kind of article.  People have done CO-Op articles before, but they are usually interviews or debates.  This article will be more like a discussion.  Who knows if this format will work or if it will fall apart, but we decided that we wanted to try something new.

The topic of discussion today is pay-to-read Pokemon sites.  This phenomenon started a couple years ago when our buddy Adam of www.sixprizes.com started the Underground.  There are now pay-to-read articles on some other Pokemon sites as well.  While the Underground has been around for a while and has been considered a success, some still question whether it is a worthwhile service, and if the pay-to-read writers really give readers their best advice.  These and other topics shall be addressed, since this article does not lend itself to pictures I will put in pictures of Garden Gnomes, so let’s get it started.

Now we shall bring in James.  I think we shall start with your basic thoughts on pay-to –read sites.

Personally I don’t mind PTR sites or articles.  As someone who is out of College and has a busy life between work and family I do not have the time that I had before hand.  I find it nice that I can have access to people of higher knowledge, skill and strategic thinking to help keep me up to par.  Now on the flip side I can see how people can get a bit upset because not everyone has the funds to be able to do that.

                Agreed, what this topic is about on the surface is about equality and how economics affects that.  We currently live in a mostly free market capitalist system where if you have money you can do almost everything.  If you play Pokémon on a budget, you may not have the money to access all information that is out there.  As a librarian, I know that access to information and equality are big topics in the Internet Age.  These are not easy subjects to talk about, because there is no right answer, it is hard to say that poor people should be excluded from good information, though you don’t want to turn over the whole economic system just for a Pokemon site.  When we were talking about this article before we wrote it you mentioned that perhaps PTR sites violate the Spirit of the Game.  Can you elaborate on that?

Yes, I believe that this loosely falls under Learning.  Learning states that we are to help discuss what went on after a match to better prepare each other and to promote better play and community.  I believe in this as what I love about the Pokemon community is the enjoyment and respect that the majority provide.  As I stated in a comment on a previous article is that at a BattleRoads at the beginning of this season I actually coached a new person on how to beat my deck.  Now, I was having a terrible day and that match wasn’t any different so I gave up on the competitive aspect of the match and decided to help out someone new.  Now this is not expected to happen all the time.  But, if you stomp all over someone you should be able to help out and articles are a great way to share knowledge and strategy to the masses.  To withhold the knowledge from someone is again a loose strike against the Spirit of the Game.

                Agreed, but isn’t there a difference between helping someone at a tournament and giving them extra information outside of a tournament.  In my interpretation, Learning states that we should advise players after the match, although after is not a specific term, I don’t think they mean to say that we always have to provide all kinds of information at all times, just some helpful tips at appropriate times.  I don’t think that charging for articles really violates this principle.  I don’t think that the Spirit of the Game really talks about articles at all.  I say this, but the Spirit of the Game is open to interpretation, so there is no real right answer.  You have been reading these articles for a while, do you think that these articles really give you an advantage.  There is no doubt that they are better than the crap that I write, but do you think it makes that much of a difference?

                Oh, I agree, I am just regurgitating what I have heard.  To be honest all you are paying for is someone else’s time and effort in to testing different ideas.  I have nothing against it, and I did say it was a loose argument.  The articles that I have been reading are of decent quality but since I have been playing for a bit now the only thing I get out of them is the new decks and the strategy against/for them.  I see there are a lot of repeat articles out there and there are only so many times that you can talk about Eels before it gets over saturated.

                Yeah, I guess they are a good thing to read, but not necessarily required.  There is the argument that you will get some good lists for testing, but you will never get the best juicy secrets.  The case that supports that argument is the “Jwittz Controversy of 2011.”  For those of you who don’t know, Jwittz wrote an Underground article giving lists for the ten best decks to run before U.S. Nationals 2011.  None of those decks were Yanmega/Magnezone, which was quickly becoming a good deck.  Jwittz and his brother then went to Nationals and they both ran this deck.  After Nationals ended and Yanmega/Magnezone did well, people accused Jwittz of trying to bury information about a deck that he was going to run for his own benefit.  This is not a bad thing, and Jwittz did give us a good excuse, but the fact that people were paying Jwittz for Underground articles made them wonder what exactly they were paying for.  This started a long discussion of whether writers that are being paid to write will give you the best information that they have, or if they will just hide the good stuff and give you whatever they feel is safe for you to know.  Writers came to the defense of JWittz saying that writers have an obligation to their testing partners more than the readers.   Do you think that writers that are being paid to write will ever not hide their good stuff?

I don’t feel that is right to expect someone to divulge everything just because you pay them a small fee.  If they are working on a secret deck they do not need to release info about it.  People need to realize that you are cheaply paying for people’s time and what they test for.  No one can write an article and you will be able to win Nationals with it, so If people are so worried about not getting the best info then they need to actually take the time and do their own research.  I also don’t think that writers are owned by their readers.

                Could you tell Ed that last part.  Seriously though, then what are people really paying for with these sites then.  If the writers can keep their best stuff to themselves to give themselves an advantage, why pay for info from them?  Adam initially built up Underground as a way to get the best from testing without having to actually spend the time testing.  This wouldn’t work if people keep the best decks secret.  Are pay-to-read sites really worth it if you know you are getting someone’s second best stuff?

Don’t get me wrong.  I feel they are actually really good for people new to the game and wanting to start getting competitive and try to catch up.  I believe they also help give insight to younger players and I think that that alone helps move the game strategy along better.  Also, as I said before, for those of us who have busy lives but do enjoy competitive Pokemon, it keeps us in the loop and going.  I think it is wrong to expect a competitive player to give out all their info that they have accumulated over hours and hours of testing for just a couple of hundred dollars at most.  That is like your boss coming to you and expecting you to give 1000% while paying you less than minimum wage.  I feel the error comes from having writers state their opinion on good decks to run during a certain tournament.  If we would stop stating opinions there couldn’t be any issues.  If all that was provided was a deck list and average win rate with a certain amount of games against the multitude of decks it would be up to the reader to actually choose or maybe come up with a way around the majority of them.

                That would mean kind of redefining Pay-To-Read articles as not a be-all end-all to being good at the game, to just something to supplement the testing that you normally do.  This is fine, but people should know it is not something that covers all aspects of the game; you still need to do your own work at testing.  Some people may think that it is the best players sharing their best stuff, but that’s not what it has been so far.  Which is fine, just people should just know what it is.


Well, that’s all we have to talk about.  Goodnight James and everybody.  If you have some thoughts about pay to read sites, please leave them in the comments section.


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