Friday 17th April 2020
In another world and time, where we weren’t all in lockdown, I would have been in Liverpool today playing Pokemon Go. Instead, I ended up doing most of it from the sofa.
I got into it a few years ago as a friend was playing it. I’ve always enjoyed outdoor games, and whilst I’ve always been meaning to find the time to do some more geocaching, Pokemon Go has been a good way to scratch that same itch.
I’ll be honest in that I’ve never been that big into Pokemon. I covered a lot of it when I was writing for Action-Figure – heck I can remember when it first launched as an IP – but it never really engaged me or made me want to buy a Nintendo system to play any of the various games.
We have a strong Pokemon Go community in our town. Over the last couple of years, we’ve encountered all the trails and tribulations you find with any social group. Those that base their identity on their status within the community and see any change or newcomer as a threat. Those that help others. Those that take it too seriously and want to officiate ‘rules’. Those that participate a lot but keep a sense of perspective. The list goes on. There are good and bad things about any community.
We found our local Pokemon group had a toxic element to it. As always, that’s a combination of that tiny minority who are toxic themselves and then a slightly bigger group of those who are willing to accept that toxicity (either directly or through inaction).
Long story short, we set up our own seperate community and it’s grown to several hundred members in about 18 months.
Lockdown has been disastrous for Pokemon Go. The whole basis of the game is getting people outside and socialising together. That can’t happen currently, and it’s meant that a lot of the game mechanics have broken. Along with it, the community aspect has died down a lot. I can’t play how I normally would and whilst I accept that’s the way the world has to be right now, it frustrates me enough that I’d rather take a break while we are in lockdown. We still all keep in touch (I even had a couple of people independently reach out to me when they’d not seen me posting to our Discord)
The basics of the game are you visit real world locations to gather resources (pokeballs, various potions, etc). You use these resources to capture Pokemon. These too are largely a secondary resource which you use to power up those Pokemon you want to keep. They in turn aid you in capturing better Pokemon, which you then need resources for to power up and to help level up real world locations to improve the resources you get.
As soon as you remove the real-world element it means you can’t find Pokemon and you can’t gather resources.
Liverpool was due to become a Safari Zone. Across several days the city would have loads of virtual pokemon released (including some rare ones not seen in this region of the world), allowing players to explore the city as they hunt down the virtual critters. It might sound a bit silly, but it is certainly a boon to any city’s tourism. I went to an event in Dortmund 2 years ago where the city got swamped with 300,000 players that nearly took down the phone networks. It brought enough business to the city that they actually had the event back but had to limit numbers.
Niantic, makers of the game, announced a few weeks ago that the Liverpool event would be postponed but that they’d hold a virtual event instead. Instead of you going out to find the pokemon, you’d pop an incense buff and they’d come to you.
I realised that, even with the incense, you still need the resource of actual Pokeballs to capture these Pokemon.
So as a result, I’ve not been playing for a few weeks. I mean, it’s difficult to play now, but Niantic have been trying to find new ways to reward you with resources so people can keep playing. But it’s not at the level we used to play. Instead I’ve been using the tiny bit I have been playing to hoard resources for today.
It meant that, even though the pokemon were coming to me, rather than me hunting them down, I could play the game at an intensity I’ve been used to, for the entire 8 hours of the event.
As part of any event, there are always the rare shiny variants people crave, and there were a few at this event that I really wanted. I managed to get most of them, including a spare of one for someone who didn’t get one.
I even went for my government-sanctioned daily walk and despite it raining, did laps of the park, hoovering up pokemon as I did. I didn’t catch them all due to walking first, catching second, but it made a welcome break from sitting on the sofa all day. I needed it as I’m starting to seize up.
It was also great to see our community come alive from their own isolation to share stories of their own sofa adventures, showcasing what they caught.
I ended up with 13 shinies, which isn’t bad given the situation. I’m glad I saved pokeballs for the event as it meant I could really enjoy the event. Whilst it still would have been better had the world been different and we’d been able to explore Liverpool, this was the next best thing, and for the first time in ages, I had fun playing.
I’ve always said I’ve not given up but am instead taking a break. Things will eventually get back to a new normal and I look forward to when they do and we can finally go to Liverpool.
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