Pokemon Go Goes Faster than Any of Us Thought

As a young, bespectacled, nerdy boy, I was enthralled with the world of Pokemon. The sense of adventure, customizing a team, optimizing strategies. I was into the original games, the anime, everything. I refused to cheat and never used a Gameshark to get Mew. I did, however, defeat an older kid on a plane once, and part of the wager was that he’d give me the elusive #151 should I win. This was the equivalent of getting 100.7% completion on a game.

I played future games in high school and then again in college, where I even wrote a Pokediary for the school newspaper that was almost nominated to win an award! (almost…). This is my way of conveying that even though you might be having a lot of fun with the recently released, world-dominating mobile game Pokemon Go, my level of enthusiasm is in the top tier of fervency.

The structure of your usual Pokemon game is nigh identical each iteration, refined and expanded through six generations (with the seventh coming out in Pokemon Sun & Moon this November): You start out as a kid who picks their first Pokemon from three types: a water, fire or grass. These ubiquitous little monsters are captured as digital data into balls that children carry around. Said children build teams, because certain types of Pokemon are strong or weak compared to others (think rock-paper-scissor but with 18 types), and they fight other people’s Pokemon. There’s a derivative story in these games, culminating in growing strong enough to beat everyone else.

But Pokemon Go? It’s something new entirely, and everyone is talking about it. It’s a “free-to-play augmented reality mobile game” with an interface markedly different from the already mobile games that exist as the main games in the franchise. Like many mobile games, it’s free to download with the option of in-game purchases to enhance the experience. In many ways, this game is pioneering into largely untapped territory in the field of augmented reality gaming. By utilizing GPS, the game allows players to wander around their physical world hunting down different Pokemon and catching them.

When I first heard about the game, I thought it would be on some sort of an epic scale, where individual Pokemon were tethered to exotic locations. If you want a high-level Rock Pokemon, prepare to go deep into a cave out in the wilderness. But I find myself wondering if there really is some method to the madness of a game that will spontaneously spawn Pokemon in peoples’ bathrooms. You can find Pokemon in your office, in your backyard, at your local CVS and yes, in any room of your house in any circumstance.

Your terrain does seem to play some sort of a role in the Pokemon you encounter; around the Motif office there’s been a plethora of water-based Pokemon (we are in Pawtucket just next to the Blackstone River). I’ve caught a Psyduck, Magikarp, Horsea, Slowpoke, Tentacool and Starmy, but also oddly enough a Zubat and more Drowzee than anything else.

My dapper Pokemon trainer in the early days. Notably more realistic looking than in the main games.

My dapper Pokemon trainer in the early days. Notably more realistic looking than in the main games.

When you start out, you get a hasty introduction to the world of Pokemon, and much like in the regular games, you have to name yourself, design your character (picking your “style” rather than “gender”) and, of course, pick your starter! The options are the same as the original games: Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle. Interestingly enough, there are methods of getting Pikachu as a starter, which basically amount to wandering away from the trio of starters in the physical world until you find a different set.

From there, you must physically move through the world around you in search of more Pokemon to catch. You can see what specific monsters might be near you, with indicators telling you how far. When they actually do pop up, you enter into an encounter, where through your phone’s camera, you can see them in the world.

Motif interns Caitlyn Picard and Ricky Mejia assisting in a brief stroll around the Motif office

Motif interns Caitlyn Picard and Ricky Mejia assisting in a brief stroll up the street from the Motif office

While out on a morning excursion, we bumped into a young man also wandering around, phone in hand. When he was close enough, rather than just keep walking past, he smiled and asked if we were playing Pokemon Go. This kind of camaraderie and enthusiasm is everywhere with this game.

In addition to Pokemon and other trainers, Pokestops are also scattered throughout the world; these real life locations are checkpoints of a kind where with a flick of the wrist you can get a handful of random items, most importantly more Pokeballs. Many other locations are Gyms where you can battle the current trainer in control and participate in a faction-oriented turf war.

According to Kotaku.com and other sources, a host of these locations are actually churches! This I can personally vouch for, as the Polish National Catholic Church in North Smithfield is indeed the first gym I tried to take on. And then there is the case of the Massachusetts man whose home is a renovated Church; yet another location beset by dozens of strangers at all hours of the day.

Even the Westboro Baptist Church has been transformed into a Gym, and taken over by LGBT champion “Pinknose” whose Clefairy named “LOVEISLOVE” took up residence. In true Westboro Baptist Church fashion, they’ve responded with a slew of tweets using Pokemon alongside their typical, delicate phrasing. No word on whether they’ll actually create a trainer to regain legitimate control over the Gym.

What you might need to understand is that the culture of Pokemon is one built on the mantra “Gotta catch ‘em all!” where collecting each and every little beast is a fundamental part of the experience. Players will go to great lengths to catch every last one. It’s for that reason that we get a warning every time you log in:

Careful! You might get eaten by a giant sea serpent.

Careful! You might get eaten by a giant sea serpent.

A Gyarados (monstrously powerful sea serpent) looms over an unsuspecting player: “Be wary of your surroundings!” At first I took this as an edgy, inspirational “warning” meant to keep you constantly aware of when a nearby Pokemon might pop up, but now I’m realizing it has more to do with preventing accidents, like the mugging in Chicago, in which a teen was stabbed for his iPhone. Turnto10.com also relayed a story from Wyoming that provides details on how a player actually discovered a dead body by a river while exploring in search of Pokemon. There are certainly negatives with this game when it comes to an overall lack of awareness, a common problem with cell phones that is now exacerbated.

But then again, there is also the recent development that has to do with the account: When logging on, one of the options is signing up / in using your Google account. In some, but not all cases, this means both Pokemon Go and developer Niantic has full account access to your Google account. Among other things, this allows them to read all of your emails and access all your Google drive documents (including deleting them). Many are suggesting this might be just an innocent oversight, albeit a HUGE one.

A wild Spearow appeared at Buzzards Bay Brewing!

A wild Spearow appeared at Buzzards Bay Brewing!

Despite setbacks, the overall experience seems to be offering up far more joy than problems.

Motif’s very own Caitlyn Picard also works at the Ice Cream Machine in Cumberland, an establishment that doubles as a brand new Pokemon Gym: “A bunch of younger customers have come up to the windows excitedly letting us know that it is [a Gym],” she explained. “Some of the guys that make the ice cream play it and are overjoyed at the fact it is a Gym.” For those who work and live around there, it has been the “talk of the shop” since the game’s release, and cars of players are there at all odd hours of the day battling at the Gym. In this way, a number of local businesses are bound to see increased traffic, and there are even ways to lean into this and promote your business.

Here in the RI and MA communities, it’s been really catching on, with public events and online groups coordinating hangouts. Stavon Joy created a public group on Facebook called “Pokémon Go – SNE,” which has blown up since the release with almost a thousand members. “It’s awesome to see how many people are happily going out and meeting new friends,” she said. “We’re all on our phones anyway, but instead of awkward silence we’re talking to people. It’s great.”

John Killian, a local junior web developer, had the following to say on Facebook:

Today, I found a Ghastly in my work computer, found a Jynx at Walmart, witnessed an enemy stop at one of my gyms who then pulled his phone out, swiped and tapped for a bit, scowled and drove off. I then battled and took over four more gyms, started hatching two eggs with six more ready, had my phone die fighting for a sixth gym, forgot how I got to said sixth gym, wandered for a bit as it was getting dark, found a familiar looking street name, followed it for a bit, found more familiar things, made it home eventually to find another Eevee which gave me enough candy to evolve one, got a Jolteon. This game is awesome.

Similarly Nicole Cote, a research specialist in North Providence, said the following:

I love Pokemon Go. I went for a walk this morning and saw several other players walking about. Some of us hung out by the CVS on Thayer since there was a lure, and someone in passing told me where there was another lure. It’s cool to have a game that encourages exercise and let’s strangers interact with each other. Also, some guy asked if i was taking pictures of his car and I had to explain I was trying to catch an imaginary bird.

You can possibly encounter the two of them – and many more local trainers – at a meet up to be held on Friday, July 15 at the Roger Williams Temple to Music. There’ll also be one on Saturday, July 23 at India Point Park coordinated by Motif’s own Spocka Summa.

Some fun facts:

  • Formatting is a doozy in this article, but we’re taking the AP’s style as the standard here:

Notable locations in the app:

  • The Chipotle on Bald Hill Rd in Warwick is a Gym
  • India Point Park in Providence is popular for trainers
  • Slater Park in Pawtucket is another popular spot
    • Rahim Shloul: “I’ve live[d] in Pawtucket for 27 years and I’ve never [seen] Slater park as busy as I’ve [seen] it lately.”
  • Gasbarro’s Wines on Federal Hill in Providence is a Gym
  • Patriot Place has a number of Pokestops

Have any fun stories about Pokemon Go or tips about interesting Pokestops or Gyms that could be added to this list? Comment here!

 

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