In the Pokémon franchise, Lieutenant Surge is the gym leader (boss battle opponent) in the Vermillion City Pokémon gym, the third gym challenged by Ash Ketchum, the protagonist of the Pokémon anime, as well as the player character in the Nintendo games Pokémon Red and Blue (1996), Pokémon Yellow (1998), and their remakes [Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen (2004) and Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! (2018). Defeating Lt. Surge in a Pokémon battle grants the player a prize called the Thunder Badge, acknowledging their qualification to raise pokemon up to level 40. Prior to obtaining the Thunder Badge, a trainer's pokemon higher than level 30 will behave uncooperatively during Pokémon battles, ignoring commands or using incorrect moves. The game lore in Red, Blue, and Yellow indicates that a trainer's Pokémon will also have their Speed stat raised after defeating Lt. Surge, but this is incorrect; scrutiny of game data shows that the actual stat raised by the Thunder Badge is Defense. In FireRed and LeafGreen this error has been corrected, so that Speed is the stat raised by winning the Thunder Badge. In addition to the Thunder Badge, the trainer challenging Lt. Surge will receive the Technical Machine which teaches the move Thunderbolt, a powerful Electric type attack.

Lt. Surge is also encountered and battled in the second half of gameplay, after completing the journey from the Johto region to the Kanto region, in the games Pokémon Gold and Silver (1999), Pokémon Crystal (2000), and their remakes Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver (2009). The Thunder Badge does not confer any benefits, in these games, and the Thunderbolt TM is only received by the player in HeartGold and SoulSilver, not in Gold, Silver, and Crystal.

Lt. Surge is stated in anime and game lore to suffer paranoia and anxiety following his years in military service (the nature of which is never actually explained in said lore - the Pokémon world shows no other evidence of currently or recently having been at war), and a consequence of this is that he has filled his gym with booby trapped wastebaskets which generate an electrified force field between every adjacent pair of baskets. A challenger of the gym must search for a switch in two of the baskets, to disable the final electric force field which separates the gym leader's room from the rest of the gym, and the challenger will be confronted by subordinate gym trainers, as a further obstacle, while conducting this search. The use of wastebaskets has become somewhat ironic for players of the Pokémon games, because lifelong players remember this gym challenge and several instances of wastebaskets concealing useful items elsewhere in the game, and will furiously search every wastebasket they encounter in all subsequent games, in the hope of finding something useful: Lt. Surge's paranoia leads him to protect himself using wastebaskets, and now wastebaskets are a source of some obsession for players.

The gym battle itself varies somewhat in each version of the game, as Lt. Surge's Pokémonand their moves are updated in newer versions, but he always uses Electric type Pokémon, and his team always features a Raichu from Kanto. During official gym challenge matches, his Pokémon are only species found natively in Kanto, even if they have a higher evolutionary form which originates in a game based in another region. In matches outside the gym, such as rematches and tournaments, his team includes Pokémon from other regions, and in the game Pokémon Stadium (1999) his team includes Pokémon which are not Electric types at all, such as Tangela, Poliwrath, and Lickitung.

Lt. Surge is called マチス "Matis" in Japanese, short for Clematis, as Japanese names for many characters in this franchise are the names of flowers. He is also given the title "The Lightning American," and he is explicitly stated to be a member of the United States Army in the rank of Major, indicating that America canonically exists in the Pokémon franchise. In the Pokémon World Tournament, this is changed to indicate that he is from the Unova region (which is based on the United States), and that Unova has been at war within the past generation. His rank is Major in the Chinese, French, and German versions of the game, as well, and he is a Lieutenant in the Italian and Spanish versions. His characterisation throughout the Pokémon franchise is highly variable; in some game translations he frequently uses foul language, and in the games and anime he is rude to people who challenge his gym. In the anime, gym leaders are depicted as trusted local authority figures, while in some of the Pokémon manga, Lt. Surge is an active member of Team Rocket, a villainous crime syndicate.

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