I’m not sure what happened but, I woke up over the weekend to find the entire world enraptured by Pokemon. It’s like some sort of dream come true. No one’s cared this much about Pokemon since I was 10 years old, but somehow it’s better. The kids that grew up playing their Game Boy are now parents and sharing something they loved with their kids. Even people who haven’t had any interest at all in Pokemon are suddenly enjoying the little monsters. I’m talking, of course, about Pokemon GO.
Pokemon GO is Nintendo’s latest free-to-play mobile app, developed by Niantic. You might recognize the company name because they’re the ones that developed Ingress, another FTP augmented reality mobile game. In Pokemon Go, you pick your trainer and set off on a real world Pokemon adventure where you’ll encounter Pokemon on the streets and in the wild. If you find one, you’ll be able to catch it in a super cool AR function that puts the Pokemon in the real world through your device’s camera. Your trainer will gain experience and level up as you walk around catching Pokemon and hitting up PokeStops, which randomly disperse items. After you reach level 5, you’ll be able to fight local gyms and try to take control of them.
After a janky launch riddled with server issues and bugs, most people seem to be enjoying the game overall. As an avid Pokemon player, I was more than overjoyed by the thought of walking around town to catch wild Pokemon and battle gyms. Unfortunately… Pokemon GO wasn’t really what I was looking for. Maybe it’s because I live in the suburbs where there isn’t a whole lot happening. Or maybe it’s because I work in the boonies where there’s even less happening. I think what really does me in is that this is inherently different than what Pokemon, as a game, is. It starts you off with one of the first three Kanto starters; I picked Charmander, excited that I could soon have a Charizard. It’s actually a little more complicated than that. You see, you actually need 25 Charmander candies to evolve it to Charmeleon. How do you get these? By catching and transferring other Charmanders to gain one candy per Pokemon. I’ve seen exactly zero Charmanders since the initial first. I did, however, get swarmed by Rattatas though, which I was able to convert to a Raticate… and, this is crafting. I’m crafting Pokemon. That’s just not fun. Gym battles aren’t much fun either. It’s all about making sure your team of six has higher combat points and type advantage and you rapidly tap your finger on the screen to attack. Woo. I’ve also run out of Pokeballs, and since I have a total of 2 Pokestops by me, gathering more isn’t easy. Which now means that I have to spend real world money, and that’s basically the cutoff point of this game for me.
As a game, it’s not very good. As a Pokemon game, it’s especially not good; stripping away everything that make Pokemon, well, Pokemon. It went from really exciting to really boring in the matter of a weekend. I understand that this was never meant to be exactly like a normal Pokemon game, but I expected some basics of the core mechanics to remain. This, obviously, isn’t for me. I have Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon on the horizon, which I eagerly look forward to.
For everyone else though, Pokemon GO has actually been a wonderful social experience, and that warms my heart. I’ve been reading about how people have gotten more exercise walking around this weekend than they have in years. I’ve also been reading how people with mental health issues, depressions, and anxiety have been getting out of their houses and being more socially interactive. Businesses are starting to see influxes in sales because their store is a hotbed of Pokemon activity. No joke, Pokemon Go has done in one weekend what Michelle Obama has spent eight years trying to accomplish. Not to undermine her efforts or anything, it’s just… who knew that all she needed was a Pokemon Geocaching app?
So, while those well rounded in Pokemon games might be left disappointed with the game itself, it’s great to see everyone so interested in Pokemon again. I’ll stick with my handheld games because I’m into the meta tournament style double battles, but please feel free to show me all your Pokemon! I’m glad you’re all out there having a blast being social and active.