4 Years ago yesterday I joined Gamespot. I had just heard about the release of Diamond and Pearl a mere few weeks before, and just gotten my DS. When I heard about online play, I figured I'd find some gaming site and challenge people, seeing as I could consistently beat everyone I played against in 3rd gen.
Because of that, while looking at D/P info I found out about the PLU. I joined just after the release, exactly a month after joining gamespot. I tried helping a bit, but looking back I wasn't all that helpful, and I probably was annoying for the most part (double posting, bag english, etc.).
As Summer approaches, I prepared for my first tournament, a doubles tournament. I started preparing my team thinking I would at least do pretty well. Just to show how bad I was at the time, here's what I remember from my team:
Blast Burn / Heat Wave / Air Slash / Dragon Claw
Blizzard / Muddy Water / Earthquake / Hammer Arm
Umbreon @ Leftovers
Bite / Moonlight / Confuse Ray / Secret Power
Crobat @ Focus Band
Air Cutter / Confuse Ray / Poison Fang / Bite
I can't remember the last two, but I think one may have been noctowl. Either way, bad move choices (double STAB on Zard, plus using Blast Burn). I relied on luck a lot with double confuse ray and bite winning most of the matches I got in that tourney. I came top 16 out of about 100, losing to SoulReaverCross. Really, I only won through the one thing I think still defines my play: My knowledge of my team and how they work together. Sure, it's a horrid team, but I knew every little thing about it (as far as my knowledge of the game goes), especially the first four that I had been working with through most of 3rd gen. I knew how they worked together, and to a lesser extent how they synergized (i.e. try to get Umbreon and Crobat out together to confuse flinch stall, Charizard + Swampert gives nice attacks that hit both opponents, covering many types with Fire + Water/Ice/Ground).
This tournament probably showed me the one most important lesson I've learned playing this game: don't get cocky, and learn from every defeat. It also gave me my drive to improve and to learn everything I can about the game. It finally showed me that I wasn't the best, which I had begun to believe after years of almost exclusively winning.
However, by then I had developped a decent group of gamespot users who would play with me or talk with me, so I left the PLU for a while with them and we tried our hands at our own unions. I became the leader of two small unions (The Nintendo Revolution Union, and the Dialga and Palkia Universe, look them up if you want) as the leaders quit, but they were dying and after a few months I had to give up.
School came back in slowly after, and I left gamespot for a while. When I came back almost a year later, I rarely posted, and I frequented the PLU, Wii, and DS boards (I later drop the Wii board, as I just enjoy my DS much more, using my Wii basically only for "party games" (SSBB, MK:Wii, Mario Party, etc.)). September comes, and I'm at a new school, and I find new friends who play. Not only do they still play Pokemon, but unlike the people I used to play with they're actually competitive. I started getting more interested again, playing against them and posting actively again. I enter a few small tournaments, and place much better (even winning one or two), not just by luck of playing bad opponents, but truly by my own skill at the game. I now have a decent team, but it's not amazing nor does it reach my current standards.
As time goes by, I'm one of the most active members of the PLU, and considered one of the best battlers there too. The union's more competitively focused than it used to be as well, probably partially by my influence (only talking about battling) as well as more casual players (or anime watchers / manga readers) leaving with less hype from a recent release (plat didn't make near the splash D/P did). In fact, I go overboard with the competitive atitude here. I'm not very welcoming to the newbies, and I did flame occasionally for people not seeing what I did when asking for advice. I'm not that proud of it, but it's true. Jerell_Rast starts finding he doesn't have time for his union anymore, so he quits as leader, making me the leader of the PLU.
At first I didn't know what to do. There was a time when the union was too rediculously huge that I would never have thought it possible for me to even have a face in it. Yet, here I was, the leader. I've been improving as a leader (or so I think), and definitely getting better as battler with every match I play.
I still treasure my team, and still have the same favorites. I know how my team plays together, and how they play separately. Sure, I have much higher standards (flawless or near flawless IVd Pokemon now), but I can also get those standards now. I've become competitive, but I still love the game. No matter how odd the path was, I'm glad I followed it.
I've grown from a faceless, nameless trainer, trading primarily, battling only in tournaments to a common face, seen as one of the most competitive players on Gamespot, and I've been called the best by a few (though I personally don't think I am). I'm the leader of the biggest Pokemon Union on gamespot. A lot sure has changed.
I'd also like to just make a shout-out to all the users who have helped me along the way. Users, who have taught me, argued with me (it's been fun) or who have battled me. There's too many of you to list, but you guys are great (for the most part (if you're the guy who's hacking, pirating, or cheating and I've disagreed with you, I probably still have a problem with you). Also, members of the PLU (join it if you like Pokemon :P, it's on the top of my union list), thanks for keeping it alive. It's been a real blast, and I hope it stays that way.
Also, to any new users, or people in general (pretty sure these lessons work in RL :P) reading this, remember: Keep trying, keep learning. You can have a face and you can improve if you try. You only lose when you give up.