Like the rest of the world (that has the game available to them), I have been enthralled with Pokémon Go over the last week. All the while, I have been trying to decide whether it was the best thing in the world, or just a bad game preying on my love and nostalgia for Pokémon.
Pokémon Go is a game that is almost impossible to “review”, in the traditional sense. The “game” portion of Go is actually quite limited. You walk around, hunt and catch Pokémon in your area, and farm items from stops as you go. You can’t trade Pokémon, and you can’t challenge other trainers to battles outside of gyms. Those gym battles are an incredibly stripped down version of an already simple system. You can either fight friendly gyms to get stronger and help fortify them against your foes, or you can cleanse the streets of the vile Valor and Instinct slime in your neighborhoods for continued Mystic supremacy.
At least, I assume you are all Team Mystic, because you are smart, reasonable people.
Outside of the slim content, there are a plethora of technical problems. The app is a battery murderer. The pedometer’s accuracy has been dodgy for me, often taking a while to register when I have completed incubating an egg. I compare Go to my fitness app, and often find I need to walk closer to 5.3K to hatch a 5K egg. The app has crashed in the middle of a catch. Multiple times. The app often fails to register when you are getting closer to or further away from a Pokémon, and when you reload the app, the monster you were hunting has disappeared. And even when the “Nearby” feature is working, there doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast technique you can use to zero in on your target’s location. For me, it has been walking in each direction until I catch the monster, or give up. Turns out, I am far from alone.
And of course, we have all seen this:
But even with all of the garbage, I am hooked. Pokémon Go is less about the actual game, and more about the experiences you are lead to. It is actually pretty far removed from the core Pokémon games, which are more about a steady accumulation of power. Go is about... going, for lack of a better term.
Personally, I love hatching eggs, partially because it gives me a reason to go out and work on my fitness, and because of the anticipation of what is in that egg. Sometimes, you hatch another crappy Caterpie, but other times, you hatch a Hitmonchan or a Lapras. According to my phone, I took over 43,000 steps hunting Pokémon this weekend. That pace isn’t sustainable, but it is a hell of a lot better than spending the weekend staring at Netflix.
It is also a great way to get out in your community and actually talk to people that you would normally ignore in your day to day travels. A couple of nights ago, my wife and I went out hunting in for the best hot spots around town. We ended up going to a local park, and started walking around, hitting up Pokéstops, and hunting about for the best monsters.
Eventually, we came across a gym, with about 10 people from various alliances fighting to take control of it. It was hotly contested, with the gym falling to each team several times, until Instinct’s superior numbers and their OP as hell Rapidash and Vaporeon finally sealed the deal.
But the best part was what was going on between battles. We talked to people. We gave them tips on how to best raise Pokémon, and received pointers ourselves. We were stricken with deep envy of the person who had already gotten a 1000+ CP Rapidash that was laying waste to the gym. However, he was nice enough to tell us where he had the best luck finding the Ponyta that turned his little fire horse into a full on Hellbeast. We all poked fun at each other’s alliances, but it was lighthearted. As I said to my wife as we left: “Valor and Instinct players are trash people that can jump off a bridge, but those guys were alright”.
Pokémon Go actually makes me feel optimistic about the human race. Sure, we are all just looking for AR monsters in our phones, but we are cooperating, getting out of our shells, and interacting with each other as equals. Considering all of the deep issues that divide people on the daily, seeing something so simple bring people together is a glorious sight to behold.
Maybe Pokémon Go is closer to the core game than I thought. Isn’t the biggest theme of the entire enterprise friendship?