It’s 2016 and everywhere I look I see ridiculously cute pictures of friends with the Pokémon Go alternate-reality setting. All I have is this phone that barely runs Pokémon Go at all, and it crashes a lot, and randomly logs me out, but still I burn with this desire to catch them all and—let’s be truthful—take my own ridiculously cute photographs.
But I was too pragmatic to spend several hundred dollars getting rid of a perfectly functional phone just because it wouldn’t run the new Pokémon game. I was severely tempted, mind you, like many others who did buy a new phone, but I resisted. Fast forward to 2018, when my old phone finally—FINALLY— broke and I could justify getting a new model. My one and only criteria (I have no shame) was that it run Pokémon Go. I have to say, I’m so glad I’m finally getting to play, even as other trainers have put their phones down for other games.
The fad-like craze has faded, but what’s left is a community of players who meet each other on lunches, breaks, or after work to raid, help each other out, and catch more Pokémon. I think Niantic has been really smart with some of its newer game design choices, too. Allowing me to “friend” the people I’m already hanging with to get better rewards (and possibly new Pokémon) is genius. There are daily research tasks that eventually lead you to a rare Pokémon. Plus friendly trainers from regions where other Pokemon-types spawn can send you eggs that hatch into Pokémon that aren’t available near you. Seriously, Reddit has an “Eggs From All Around the World” thread that’s entirely Pokémon Go players exchanging trainer codes so they can trade presents for a chance to hatch regional eggs.
Plus, let’s face it. I’m a writer. I sit all day. And I LOVE gourmet food and eating, which means I tend toward a round body type. Pokémon gives me a reason to actually take a break and go walk around. I’m sure my parents would occasionally like me to use my break and cell phone to call them rather than walking a virtual fish (sorry Mom!) so it can evolve (cough, cough, Feebas & Magicarp), or hatching an egg, but at least I’m not still up at my desk sitting for my whole nine-and-a-half hour work day before I go home and sit around some more. I get a minimum hour of walking per day with Pokémon, which does add up, especially if a particularly cool or rare Pokémon raid spawns at a gym that’s a little bit farther out than usual, and I really have to put the hustle on to get there and back before my break ends.
And despite the tag line of “gotta catch ’em all,” I’ve found the Pokémon Go community is particularly accepting of people playing at their own level and at their own speed. Sure, I may not have as many “shinies,” or as many event Pokémon as some more hard-core trainers, and the age-range of the trainers in my group runs from grade school to retiree, but everyone is always happy to be there and having a good time.
Any game community that can be that welcoming and inclusive to such a large group of people gets a lot of credit in my book. If you’ve not tried Pokémon Go or you’ve put it down for a while, I encourage you to give it another spin. It provides a surprisingly easy, non-threatening way that people of all ages can actually meet and make new friends. (Ok, ok, kids should be properly accompanied by an adult, but let’s be honest here. It’s mostly Millennials or older who’re still playing in my neighborhood.) Now, excuse me while I go catch that Evee over there.