Results after a week of playing Pokémon Go: 34 pokémon seen, 10 miles walked, 5 new friends made, 3 local parks discovered, tired legs and a giddy joy that a video game has joined fantasy and reality in a way that offers real benefits.
Pokémon Go was released on the 6th this month and is already pulling in $1.6m in daily revenue. Despite server connection issues and lingering bugs, the game is an undisputed success as millions of players sign on to capture their favorite pocket monsters.
A Review of Pokémon Go
AKA I’ve Wandered 10 Miles from My Home, Oh God What Are Calves and Why Do They Hurt
While its #1 position in the app store can partly be attributed to Pokémania in general, it would be selling the game short to say long-time fans alone are helping it thrive.
Aside from the obvious appeal among young players, adults in the Gen Y crowd who haven’t touched Pokémon in years are downloading the app for kicks and getting genuinely addicted. Even some grandparents have fallen prey as the hype spreads among families.
The game is fairly simple. You walk around in real life and the app tells you which pokémon are in your area. When you manage to find one, your phone vibrates and you use the touch screen to toss a ball in the hopes of catching it.
Local landmarks are used as PokéStops, which provide you with items for free, although fancier options like lures or incense (which draw pokémon to your location) have to be purchased with real money or the premium currency you get by holding gyms.
Gym battle involve swiping to dodge attacks and tapping to hit the enemy, although intermittent lag makes it less of an art and more of a crapshoot.
Despite these issues, I’ve walked more in the past week than I have in the past few months. There are several nice trails near my location, and despite feeling I should use them, I don’t walk them on a regular basis.
Even if it’s a silly one, Pokémon Go gives me an “excuse” to walk, and my calves are confused by all the action.
It’s been a weird ride. Some naysayers are complaining that PoGo reinforces the stereotype of people getting absorbed in their phones, but my experience has been very different.
Make Friends and Influence NPCs—Er, People
The first day I took the game outside, I found a guy walking around my apartment complex, glancing from his phone to the road ahead. He coyly glanced toward my husband and me, asking, “Are you guys playing Pokémon Go too?” We said yes, and he eagerly shared some pokémon hot spots. We chatted for a few minutes about how fun/unique the game was and amiably parted ways.
“I’ve heard stories of… people with social anxiety bonding over PoGo and other similar stories of the app actually making it easier for people to interact…”
Later, on one of the aforementioned trails, we noticed that someone had set up a lure module at a PokéStop. Several people had already gathered when we arrived, and we proceeded to meet an extremely varied group including: a skater boy, a young dad and his baby, an Iraq veteran, a schoolgirl and a swimmer.
All those NPCs you thought were goofy in the games (“Really, a hair stylist pokémon trainer?”) actually exist! I guess my title would be Gamer Geek or Pirate-in-Disguise. Represent.
In any case, I enjoyed spending time with my fellow trainers, and ran into several of them when walking the trail days later.
Elsewhere across the world, I’ve heard stories of disabled folks leaving their homes for the first time in months, people with social anxiety bonding over PoGo and other similar stories of the app actually making it easier for people to interact and be social than without it.
For me personally, aside from finding friendly trainers in the area, I’ve stumbled across a few beautiful parks thanks to the app’s GPS and PokéStops directing me to “areas of interest” I didn’t even know existed in my neighborhood.
The Digital World and Human “Glitches”
There are stories to the contrary, of course. Idiots are being idiots and have trespassed on private property to capture pokémon, acted elitist toward newcomers or stupidly used the game while driving and caused accidents.
Dumb things are liable to happen over games regardless of the community, but for an app being implemented on such a large scale, I think the lack of widespread problems is pretty heartening at this stage.
A greater concern when it comes to gameplay is the fact that players in rural areas don’t have a large variety of pokémon to discover, and PokéStops are much rarer. The app determined PokéStop and gym locations based on submissions from players of Niantic’s other augmented reality game, Ingress, and as such, big city players have far more resources available to them.
PoGo is helping to pave the way for augmented reality games of the future, and in the meantime I think we can all stand to have a little more fun in the world.
Niantic has said this is something they’ll address in the future, but for now there’s not much incentive for rural players to use the game unless they want a glorified pedometer. (And there are other games that do this better!)
I think PoGo‘s strength as a Pokémon-branded game combined with its unique augmented reality angle will keep it going strong for some time, especially if Niantic continues to built the social side of things with an ability to trade or interact with fellow trainers.
A Solid Start and Charitable Causes
Will I keep playing PoGo in the future? Maybe on and off. I don’t think there’s enough to keep me riveted right now, but I will say it’s reignited my urge to walk, and it’s nice to have when I need extra incentive to get off my butt.
I also find myself somewhat interested in the upcoming Sun and Moon games, despite not having played Pokémon since Ruby…
Better still, I was introduced to WoofTrax (Walk for a Dog) while playing PoGo. I highly recommend PoGo players and walkers/runners in general use it, as it donates money to dog shelters per every mile walked.
… A few of them may pick up a book, make a new acquaintance or otherwise reconnect with the reality the app professes to support.
Even if you’re a triathlete it’s unlikely your walking will contribute a huge amount to the cause, but the more people use it, the more gets donated. It takes very little memory and shelters (especially no-kill) can use every bit of support!
PoGo is clearly helping to pave the way for augmented reality games of the future, and I think we can all stand to have a little more fun in the world. Despite some people making trouble, it’s good to see many are finding common ground thanks to the game.
Another nice feature is that stores and community centers have become PokéStops or gyms, providing incentive for people to gather and spend more time at those locations. Restaurants can get more business, parks become bigger meeting places, and even libraries are getting the pokémon treatment.
While a few people will undoubtedly just waste time there and remain in their bubble, a few of them may pick up a book, make a new acquaintance or otherwise reconnect with the reality the app professes to support. And that’s a laudable thing since gaming can become so insular at times.
A Few Tricks for the Road
But I’m not blasting off yet! If you’re thinking of starting your trainer journey, here are some extra tips and fun to send you on your way.
To start: My first pokémon was a pikachu. “But they only give you Squirtle, Charmander or Bulbasaur at the beginning!”
Not true, my little friend. Pikachu is there, but he’s a secret, so you have to do some extra leg work to make him appear.
When you’re offered the standard starter pokemon, run away from them several times. They’ll attempt to keep popping in front of you, but just ignore them like you would a member of Team Rocket.
It will take 3-4 tries, but after you do this a pikachu will finally appear as one of your options.
While starter pokemon aren’t all that useful late game, it’s a good way to get a fairly rare pokemon early on and lord it over your friends.
Another thing to keep in mind is that at level 5, you’ll be asked to join one of the trainer teams.
You’ll likely want to choose the same team as your friends so that you can battle rival gyms together, although choosing opposing sides can also allow you to battle back and forth at gyms to gain extra exp.
When it comes to the “persona” of the different teams and their leaders, Valor and Mystic have fairly good reputations (Candela is fiery and tough, Blanche is cool and intellectual) while Instinct and Spark… well, Instinct is special. Healthy rivalry, everyone!
Have fun training everyone, and remember to roam smartly!
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