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Ten-year-old helps Pokémon card game make Yellowknife comeback

Pokémon cards for sale at Ptarmicon 2022
Pokémon cards for sale at Ptarmicon 2022. Laurissa Cebryk/Cabin Radio

An increase in Yellowknife residents searching for Pokémon trading cards is at least partly the result of a 10-year-old’s efforts.

Celestia O’Brien has been hosting trading posts for Pokémon cards, first published and popularized in the 1990s, to make sure a new generation of players get their fix.

“During Covid-19 it was hard to trade Pokémon cards and get into it, so I wanted to help people have more fun with it,” said O’Brien, who first got into Pokémon cards about five years ago and estimates she has more than 1,000 cards.

O’Brien has hosted three Pokémon trading post so far, where eight to 10 kids have arrived to swap cards, play the card game and socialize.



“Some kids come every time, and we have new ones every time,” said Amanda St Denis, O’Brien’s mom. St Denis shares trading post details online on behalf of her daughter and supervises the events.   

Celestia O’Brien holds up her Pokémon card trading post sign. Photo: Amanda St Denis

“We got some Pokémon cards donated by someone, so there’s an opportunity for kids to get some free ones, too,” said St Denis. Kids that don’t have cards can show up to the event and start their own decks to play.

At the past weekend’s Ptarmicon gaming and pop culture convention in Yellowknife, Tabletop Games and Eats ran lessons on how to play the game.

Reigh Foster, president of Ptarmicon, said organizers get more questions each year about Pokémon events at the convention.



“Pokémon itself represents a gateway into gaming and, more broadly, the nerd community. It is many people’s first video game, card game, collection, or obsession,” said Foster. “Its easy-to-love formats are very attractive to young and new nerds.”

Ed But, host of the Tabletop Games and Eats section of Ptarmicon, said Pokémon cards are some of his top sellers. Despite starting with Magic: The Gathering – another popular card game – he soon had to bring in Pokémon cards due to high demand.

A gaming area at Ptarmicon 2022 for kids to learn how to use their Pokémon cards. Laurissa Cebryk/Cabin Radio
Showing off a new, rare Pokémon card at Ptarmicon 2022. Laurissa Cebryk/Cabin Radio

Pokémon, originally Pocket Monsters, started as a Game Boy game in Japan in 1996 and quickly became popularized in North America under its shortened name, Pokémon, in 1998.

Pokémon also became a popular cartoon series and movie franchise, which is how St Denis said her daughter got started with the game.

Today, the franchise has spin-offs such as Pokémon Go – a phone-based game that made headlines in 2016 ­– and is one of the top-grossing video game franchises in the world. The latest addition, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, will appear on Nintendo DS in November.