‘Children’s Game?’: A glance at the complexities of Pokémon

A historically accurate depiction of St. Basil and his trusty partner, Pikachu. Photo by: Justin Van
A historically accurate depiction of St. Basil and his trusty partner, Pikachu. Photo by: Justin Van

Let’s Talk Pokémon.

Everyone and their mother knows at least something about it: you find a wild monster, you train it as your own, and use them to compete with other trainers. Simple, right?

Not exactly.Image result for calculation for hidden power

This is a common calculation used by every well-respected Pokémon player uses to choose their Pokémon most effectively.

The move “Hidden Power” uses hidden values of the Pokémon (which in itself is a pain to find) to determine the type (ice, fire, water, etc.) of the move.

Allow me to refute the idea that “Pokémon is a children’s game!” by explaining the concepts used in this calculation, as it pools everything about the unseen values and the keys to competitive battling into one place.

Hidden Power

The calculation itself states the following:

Image result for calculation for hidden power

  • Take a single base stat of a Pokémon and add it’s IVs.
  • Multiply that by 2.
  • Multiply that by the square root of the EVs of that stat over 4.
  • Multiply that by the level of the Pokémon.
  • Divide that by 100.
  • Add 5.
  • Repeat this process for the other five base stats of the Pokémon. Take the average of these six numbers.

From here, there are spread sheets or that determine your type by the end number you reach. I don’t think I need to describe the level of a Pokémon in much detail, but let’s unpack the rest of the gibberish I just went over?

Base Stats

Let’s start with something “simple”. The Base Stats of a Pokémon are arbitrary numbers used as a baseline to compare it to other Pokémon.

These numbers are used in the coding and calculations of the game (such as in Hidden Power), but they are much more practically used as benchmarks for how to use your Pokémon in battle.

These are the Base Stats for Pikachu. We can see that six stats arise from this image:

  • HP: The number of Hit Points (Health) your Pokémon has
  • Attack: Used for damage in physical moves (Scratch, Tackle)
  • Defense: Determines the amount of HP lost from a physical attack
  • Special Attack: Used for damage in special moves (Thunderbolt, Water Gun)
  • Special Defense: Determines the amount of HP lost from a special attack
  • Speed: Determines the order of which Pokémon will attack (ignoring abilities)
  • At the bottom, you also see the Base Stat Total, which simply adds all the other base values together.


As we observe Pikachu’s stats, we can say that “Although his defenses are not that great and his attack stats are sub par, he makes up for it in speed and allows itself to be able to defeat the other Pokémon first.”

However, compare this to Charizard.

As we can see, the Base Stats are much higher than Pikachu’s. Trumping Pikachu’s only viable option (speed), this makes it practically useless around a Chraizard. Charizard’s high special attack means that not only can it out-speed the Pikachu, but also defeat it in the first turn of play.

These problems arise from every other Pokémon in the game. Therefore, competitive players have come up with a Tier List, a fluid, constantly edited list determining which Pokémon can be used in a specific range of Pokémon. This makes every Pokémon viable in its own tier.

(In case your curious, damage calculations take the power of the move, multiply it by the attack stat, divide it by the opponent’s defense stat, rounds up to the nearest whole number, and subtracts that number from the opponent’s HP)

EVs (Effort Values)

Image result for pokemon evs chart

The simpler of the two hidden values of the game, Effort Values are determined by what Pokémon you spend your time battling.

Each of the six base stats have EVs attached to them. When you fight a Pokemon, a value based on that Pokémon’s strength is added to your Pokémon. For example, Charizard defeating the Pikachu would add one EV in Speed.

Every 4 EVs translates to 1 stat point of a Pokémon (defeating four Pikachus would raise the speed stat by one stat point). Every stat has a maximum of having 252 EVs (defeating 252 Pikachus would raise your speed stat by 31 points). Every Pokémon has a maximum of having 508 EVs across all stats (252 Speed, 252 Attack, 4 HP).

Image result for pokemon evs spread

A 252/252/4 spread is the most commonly used spread across all Pokémon. However, some playing around with stats to acquire specific goals can be useful. For example, raising the special defense stat of your Charizard more may allow it to live a certain move from another, possibly faster, Pokemon.


Not pertaining to the Hidden Power calculation, natures are still a very important factor in how you develop your Pokemon for battle. Natures determine a specific boost and depreciation of stats.

From the moment the Pokemon is generated into the game, a random value is assigned to it which determines its nature.Image result for pokemon natures

The nature itself most commonly boosts one stat and lowers another (+Attack, -Defense). With the example of Charizard, you will be using all special attacks to optimize its high special attack stat. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about its attack stat, which makes the Modest nature (+Special Attack, -Attack) the most optimal nature for your Pokemon.

IVs (Individual Values)


Out of everything in the game, from Random Encounters with wild Pokemon to the calculations for Critical Hits, the Individual Value is the most complex and confusing factor.

Random Numbers, like used in natures, are not exactly random. The numbers are based on other calculations done in the game. Without going into too much detail, this is how natures, level, gender, and other numbers are generated. When a Pokemon is generated, these three factors are also combined and calculated to determine the Pokemon’s IVs.

IVs are similar in nature to EVs. A number between 0 and 31 is assigned to each stat of a Pokemon. This number directly relates to how many points in a stat is given to the Pokemon (20 Speed IVs, 20 Speed stat points).

As you can probably tell, getting the perfect 31 in all stats is unbelievably rare. There are methods (all of which make my head spin) that can guide you into getting those perfect stats. The main tactic involves a lot of catching the same Pokemon, luck of the numbers, and precise breeding.

Long story short, you can get the perfect 31 in one stat and breed to pass that trait down, hoping it develops more perfect stats.


With all this being said, I would like to point out that Pokemon is, in fact, marketed towards the younger audiences. Running around in a make-believe world training monsters to fight other monsters is admittedly a childish concept.

But no one can deny that optimizing the elements that make the game “simple” is not something a child can do. It takes intelligence, strategy, and even patience to accomplish such things.

And I haven’t said a thing about the battles.

Making predictions, forcing moves, on-the-fly damage calculations and speed comparisons, awareness of play styles and patterns, knowing when to be predictable and unpredictable, avoiding over-predictions, balancing your team structure, choosing each Pokemon’s moves, and optimal usage of held items are all necessary in every battle to win.

With all these complexities and the right viewpoint, most other games like Call of Duty and sports games start to look more simple and childish in comparison.