Let’s clear a few things up first if I’m going to talk about Pokémysteries:
This is mainly sourced from me having played all of the main Pokémon games and some of the crazy side-games (yes, I played Pokémon Ranger…I’m not going to discuss it). Having said that, most, if not all, of the discussion in Pokémysteries is about the WORLD that Pokémon occurs in as exposed by the many franchises. It’s important to disregard the notion of “levels” for Pokémon as they present a conflicting concept for the analysis of the world (i.e. by being tailor-made to the heroes journey in particular).
Walking home from work, thinking about Pokémon (like you do), I couldn’t get the following question out of my head:
How do you become a Pokémon Gym Leader?
There are 46+ Gym Leaders in the world of Pokémon (I counted the ones in the games, not the ones in the anime. We’re not going to get into the “Which is more canon?” debate right now), and, while some explain how they came to arrive at their position, there really isn’t an established process.
We can go over some of the ways we know Gym Leaders became Gym Leaders:
Family tradition: Like many dojos, once a given Gym is opened, the tradition of that Gym can remain through generations of the family who opened the Gym. (example: Falkner, of Violet Gym)
Nepotism(?) OR "Screw you mom/dad, I’m opening my own Gym": Instead of acquiring a Gym from your parents, you take your parent’s reputation as a Gym Leader to open your own Gym in another city/town. (example: Roark, of Oreburgh Gym)
Chosen by the Pokémon League: This seems to be the most official way to become a Gym Leader, especially if you’re to become a person who hands out badges that certify people in the Pokémon League in the first place. (example: Whitney, of Goldenrod Gym)
Vacuum of Power: Maybe you’re a trainer at the Gym, you’ve dedicated your life to the way that Gym has established, and suddenly, your Gym Leader decides to leave. Do you duke it out with the rest of your fellow Gym Trainers? Do you figure out rationally, by deciding who best embodies the spirit of the Gym? Whichever way, the point is, you were at the Gym, your leader left, you became the leader. (example: when Giovanni leaves the Viridian Gym, Blue takes his place)
Self-appointment: Super shady if you ask me, but apparently anything goes. So, maybe you’re a pioneer and you ride into a no-Gym town in a region and decide it needs one. (example: unclear, but likely Clay of Driftveil Gym).
That seems to cover all the bases. In fact, you could argue that any trainer of some generally accepted repute could become a Gym Leader if they decided to. It seems the key of becoming a Gym Leader actually relies on getting that certification from your regional Pokémon League.
What you need to do to become a Pokémon Gym Leader
Get a theme: If you don’t already do this, get yourself a theme, preferably a Pokémon elemental type (may I suggest Dark? it would be original). It’s also usually a good idea to already be in a hobby or profession related to that elemental type. in some regions, your theme should be exemplary of the place you put your Gym, which brings me to my next point.
Get a building for a gym: Location, location, location. Seriously, the Pokémon League values a well placed Gym, mostly because they want a trainer to have experienced a wide range of Pokémon and people by the time they reach the Elite Four. Most gyms are evenly spread throughout a given region, which could easily explain why Pallet/New Bark/Littleroot/Twinleaf/Kanoko Towns don’t have gyms in them, despite being of similar size to other gyms that do. Once you have a building for a gym, I can only assume that the Pokémon League swoops in with some massive Pokégrant check so that you can trick out your Gym with cannons, ice, or giant dragon statues.
Get certified: This is the most abstract quality of becoming a Gym Leader, and probably what prompted this whole post. I’m going to try to define the qualities that it seems are necessary for a Gym Leader:
After you meet (most of) these weirdly ephemeral criteria, the Pokémon League takes notice of you as a trainer and bestows upon you some certification and badges to hand out.
Comments? Inaccuracies? Feel free to tweet @DeMarko or drop something in my ask box on Tumblr. Please make sure you refer to this post. Big thanks to Bulbapedia and its contributors for helping me with some naggling bits. I believe we also have Discus enabled on this blog, so you can comment there.
I’m staring at my DS screen right now. I’ve got a level 38 Unfezant that I’ve raised and evolved since it was level 13. I just battled a level 41 Rufflet and I know I should’ve caught it. I’m currently trying to bulk up my team in the quickest way before I take on the 8th Gym Leader, and then the Pokemon League. But for some reason I refused to let myself catch the Rufflet. It would’ve been stronger, and it’s evolution would’ve been even better. But I felt proud of my Unfezant, as weird as that is. I raised it, I made it strong, and it’s part of my team that I worked hard for.
When I was younger, I would’ve just bulked up my starter and let it tear through whatever battled me. I can distinctly remember my Charizard or Blastoise being a good 20 levels in front of my other Pokemon, who I hardly used other than against specific Elite Four members if my starter fainted. Playing like that was never a problem, though. It was no-frills, but I “beat the game” and I did it quickly. Winning was what made the game worth it (how very Gary Oak of me).
But now, I’m older, and for whatever reason (I fucking love Pokemon), I still play Pokemon. I picked up a copy of White about five days after it came out, and right at the start, I started thinking about my Snivy’s weaknesses. I refused to let myself Google the gyms in front of me (younger me always had a strategy guide), so I tried to catch Pokemon that could contribute what my Snivy lacked. Also, there were plenty of choices, but I refuse to play with Pokemon I don’t actually like now. I guess I’m old and grumpy.
So far, throughout most of my game, I’ve taken my time (the day FireRed came out I put in 7 hours and got my starter ((charmander)) to level 36 ((charizard)), I’ve put 30+ hours in White and my top Pokemon is level 44) and kept my whole team within a decent amount of levels of each other. The strange thing is, Pokemon seems like an entirely different game from what my memory holds.
Pokemon used to be fun to me, but it was easy, even childish. Now, I’ve lost to gym leaders, I’m running out of money, I’ve got to train ALL of my Pokemon if I want to continue, I’ve spent time yelling at the screen, I’ve had to let Pokemon go because their stats were bringing the team down, and the game has become exponentially more fun and engaging due to all that. I feel like I’m playing something more like Dragon Quest or Monster Hunter than a cutesy kid’s game. The video game and life experiences I bring to Pokemon now completely change how the game plays. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s why Pokemon is so timeless to people. If you’d like it, the game can mature right alongside you.
And that’s cool, not a whole lot of series can do that (I’m looking at you Final Fantasy).