Confession time: I play “Pokemon Go.”
I’m not a serious player — I mostly downloaded the app when it came out because everyone on my social media feeds started freaking out, and I have a healthy fear of missing out on the next big thing. Also, I’ve got that ’90s kid nostalgia that is a requirement to apply for your millennial card (i.e. I’ve bought Jellies shoes and chokers as an adult).
But because of my deep love of my bed, I’m not out collecting rare Pokemon at all hours of the night, and I’ve pretty much just got what I can collect from my neighborhood when I go for a quick walk after getting off work. This means I have Zubats — basically the cockroaches of the Pokemon world — galore, but absolutely nothing that would win at one of those imposing gyms I see on the app map each time I open it.
As unqualified as I have made myself seem to be to offer advice on the game, I’m going to give it now anyway:
Never miss a local story.
1. How it works
Even though I’ve gotten more than my fair share of strange looks when explaining how the app works to people, it’s actually really simple.
You walk around with the app open, and random Pokemon will pop up on the screen. If you want to catch them, you click on them. Then, they will pop up in front of whatever your phone camera is looking at at that moment. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to take pictures of a Venonat on top of your friend’s head, or a Growlithe sitting next to your dog. Then you swipe to throw a red-and-white Pokeball (a round cage for the Pokemon) at the animal, and if it hits, you’ve caught it.
There’s a slim chance the Pokemon can escape, and then you have to throw more Pokeballs at it, but most of the time they stay put. Once you’ve caught a new type of Pokemon, it goes into your Pokedex (literally an index of Pokemon species) showing that you’ve caught it. Then you are free to go on your merry way and catch more Pokemon the same way. Easy, right?
2. It’s a lot of walking. I mean A LOT
The app was meant to encourage people to get out and explore where they live, rather than just sitting at home playing on your phone. Essentially, it’s sneaky way to increase our physical activity, while still giving us the brain-numbing entertainment Angry Birds and Candy Crush have instilled in us.
My dog is not happy with this feature. The lazy animal gets slower and slower the longer we walk, until I’m practically dragging her around the block mumbling, “Just one more minute, Jones (her name). I’ve got to catch that Meowth I’ve seen stalking around the corner.”
3. The most annoying thing about the game is when the server crashes, always mid-catch
The first day I downloaded the app was the worst, probably because the servers weren’t prepared for just how many people would be jumping onto it. For the first few hours, I couldn’t get past the log-in screen, and I seriously debated deleting the app and giving up on my childhood dreams of catching them all.
It’s gotten better over the past few days though, so now the server only really seems to crash at the exact moment when I’ve caught something with a ridiculously high combat power (how you rank your Pokemon) and am waiting to see if the thing will escape. Typically, I just restart the app and pray to the Poke-gods that the catch went through or that the animal will still show up in the area, so I can try catching it again.
4. Zubats are many and you will waste Pokeballs on them like a newb
Time for more confessions. I’ve never been super clear on what constitutes a good Pokemon. Do I need to memorize the Pokedex so that I know what not to waste my time on? It seems super labor-intensive. So basically I just catch whatever pops up on my screen, meaning I’ve wasted a lot of resources trying to catch those Zubats that in the end aren’t going to help me do anything much.
But once I’ve clicked on it and sent a few balls its way, I’m dedicated to the cause, and I will exhaust my entire store of Pokeballs trying to catch it. And then one more pops up next to it and we start the process again. Luckily, I am now the proud owner of five evolved Golbats (the next step up in the evolutionary chain from Zubat) so take that person with the 1200 CP Vulpix at the gym where I get coffee.
5. There’s no real prize
This stems from something my boss asked as I was writing this. “What happens when you win?” she asked. “Do you get a prize?” Unfortunately, no — and that kind of bums me out. I guess the entire point is to collect all of the Pokemon (hence the “gotta catch ’em all” tagline) whether by catching them or evolving them.
Evolving is when you take a Pokemon and level it up into a higher-phase, differently named Pokemon. In this way, you take a Ponyta, toss some points at it, it becomes a Rapidash. Both look like horses. One has more fire around it. So obviously that one is better. But besides catching them all, I guess the other goal could be to “be the very best” (another original theme song tagline) and be the big boss at one or more of the gyms where you battle. Or you could be like me and just be striving to find that one iconic Pokemon THAT YOU CAN’T FIND ANYWHERE (see the next entry).
6. Where is Pikachu?
I have yet to catch this yellow bundle of joy and I am supremely upset about that. If someone can direct me to where I can find one, I might actually consider going outside of my neighborhood and hunting it down. Because what is Pokemon without Pikachu?