I never intended to play Pokémon Go. Up until this past weekend, I was more than content to follow its comings and goings online, in social media, and on the nightly news. I was impressed by mainstream cult that quickly formed around the game, and I was amazed at its immediate rise in popularity, and not just among hardcore Pokémon players. It seemed as if everyone was suddenly playing this game, almost with reckless abandon. Just watching the saga of the game unfold was amazingly entertaining and about as close as I wanted to be to any of it.
And then a few days ago, my husband asked me,” Are you going to download that new Pokémon game?” My short response was along the lines of nope, never. But then he mentioned something that changed my mind. He said that folks at his work had been talking about Pokémon Go, but that folks at his work never talked about video games. Huh, really? That struck a chord. I knew that Pokémon Go had become a big deal in no time, but until he said that, I don’t think I understood just how big. How in the world could a Pokémon game, of all things, attract both gamers and self-proclaimed non-gamers alike? How could it collect, in the span of a mere few days, a jumbo-sized audience that entertainment companies, video game companies included, only dream of? Well, to find out it appeared that I would have to download the game.
So I did.
Pokémon Go is an intriguing game. It uses GPS software and augmented reality (which you can turn on and off) to place Pokémon throughout the actual world. From there it’s up to you as a male or female trainer, both of whom are lightly customizable, to go out and find and capture these Pokémon. (Or, if you happen to be in a well-populated area, maybe wait for the Pokémon to come to you.) Once you reach level 5, you can join a team and then start leveling up your collected Pokémon and battling for supremacy at gyms. (I picked the yellow team, Team Instinct, because I like yellow.)
Within the game, gyms and “Pokéstops” appear on your map. Pokéstop are spots with which you can interact and get items, like more Pokéballs and eggs that hatch if you incubate them and walk a certain distance. You can use incense to lure Pokémon to you, as well as other special items to take care of your collection of adorable pocket monsters. In terms of the game maps, one of the more interesting things I discovered is that world of Pokémon Go looks quite different at my home…
…than it does at my work.
(Guess it’s pretty obvious where to best play.)
I like the idea behind Pokémon Go in that it’s essentially an augmented reality scavenger hunt. Though the news, any news, is more than happy to report on the negative effects of the game in the real world, it seems to have brought people together more often than not. While I’ve yet to witness the game being played en masse at a particular site, I have seen small groups of people on the street playing together. It’s a little bit odd to watch as they furiously swipe at their phones, but they are nonetheless happy, and that’s alright by me. For me, the fun of the game lies in simply collecting Pokémon, and, to a certain extent, experiencing them in the real world – it is kind of entertaining to find a Goldeen floating over my desk. I’ve tried my hand at gym battles and have mostly found myself outmatched. I don’t have that fanatic vibe that cares about leveling up my cast of monsters or “owning” a particular gym. I’m more than happy to wander about to see what new critters pop up here and there.
But that necessity of wandering about is also where I fail the game. I’ve played the game mostly during my commutes to and from work, which includes walking and riding. Other times when I’ve been out and about running errands and such, I haven’t thought about the game. I stick my phone in my bag and head on. Walking around with my phone in my hand just isn’t a habit. And the act of “going for a walk” doesn’t involve my phone at all. (If anything, that’s an escape from it.)
And then there’s the issue of having the game actually on my phone, which I’m not overly comfortable with yet. I’m a bit (hyper)sensitive about my phone. I like to keep it free from clutter, including games, music, and questionable apps that need access to everything on it. And yes, I’m also one of those slightly paranoid people who always keeps the phone’s location service turned off, something that’s absolutely required to play Pokémon Go. In addition, I also keep a very close eye on my phone’s battery and my data usage, both of which Pokémon Go heartily devour. So really, playing Pokémon Go is a matter of if I feel like allowing the game unlimited access to me. That just doesn’t sit well, so over the past week, the game as been more off than on.
So here I am at level 5. I’ll probably level up slowly, and only as I find more new Pokémon in my own limited fashion. Pokémon Go may not be my new home, but I’m glad that others have found it as such. Because there’s nothing wrong with playing what you enjoy.
Whether you’ve played it or not, what are your thoughts on the Pokémon Go phenomenon?
(All images in this post are courtesy of me and my phone. Also how hard was it to pick a username?! I tried several before finally finding one that wasn’t taken.)