In February I posted this blog about playing the mobile game Pokémon Go. My point was that I played the game in a compulsive manner, concerned I was approaching an addictive place with it. I had abstained in January, to assess and basically get a grip on what was going on for me. I started playing again in February, with some detachment in place. I am now playing daily again.
So what’s changed about my playing? Several things:
The statement I made in February that I had times of playing while driving and this is distracted driving, stayed with me. I am aware now. I am surprised how a public statement has helped me change my own behavior. (I may keep this in mind when I am ready to change other unwanted behaviors!)
This is a fun game my husband and I enjoy playing together. I understand I can take this to an obsessive place. To monitor myself, I am pacing my playing more closely with my husband’s. This is working for me.
Here are some facets of the game that have increased the gaming fun:
1. My husband and I, in May, finally played a part of the game both of us had been avoiding. We played in raids which involved playing with other Pokémon Go players! It was quite accidental. We had been doing raids just the two of us could raid successfully. There are many more raids that take more than two players, so we were limiting our playing. One day while on our walk, we tried a raid at a park and were unsuccessful at winning that raid. A young couple drove up, asked if we were doing this raid, and we explained we had tried and been defeated. They offered to help. First, the woman looked at our particular set of Pokémon and told us which ones to use. This was a very helpful gesture and made us more informed players. They then helped us win a raid and invited us to another raid at another Pokémon Gym in town. We went with them and were able to join a raid for a type of Pokemon that we couldn’t duo, called a Legendary Pokémon. We had so much fun meeting people who were actively involved in enjoying all aspects of the game. We didn’t exchange contact information but saw this couple and many other players through a well-established gaming website called Discord. For the most part, people who post on this site use the name of their Pokémon trainer instead of their given names. As we have met up with people at raids, we are beginning to learn their names and a little more about them. We have raided with people in political offices, young adults I knew through my work, and a variety of folks from all walks of life. We are definitely some of the oldest people playing locally.
What is different for me is I am not obsessively going out and joining raids, as I might have in the past. I pace myself with my husband, as his interest waxes and wanes.
2. Pokémon Go has added new features that encourage meeting other trainers (people who play Pokémon Go). Since January, once a month there is an event called Community Day. For three hours, a specific Pokemon is released, with a shiny version of it as well. (Shiny Pokémon gained popularity in the card games and the Nintendo games. There are many Pokémon Go players who have played these, so shiny Pokémon has an established allure.)
It usually has a new move that it has not had before, which makes it an improved Pokémon. We learned the best place to participate in Community Day is at our wonderful downtown. It is dense in PokeStops, which means many Pokémon are spawning there as well. We have participated since February, and are now recognizing people and chat about how many shiny Pokemon we have caught. We also talk to people we don’t know because we can tell if they are playing Pokémon Go.
The local Pokémon Go Discord group organized a gathering for these Community Days. We get a ticket for a raffle for every canned good we bring for a local food pantry. Our local paper wrote a story about it.
Pokémon Go has offered monthly Raid Days this past summer, where a legendary Pokémon was the only raid option in all of the gyms for three hours. The local Pokémon Go community quickly organized this as well. At the beginning of the event, we gather at the South Park gazebo and split into teams. There have probably been around sixty people who show up. There are three teams in the game, and there are advantages to raid with team members. The groups can be as small as four, depending on the players’ trainer’s strength in the game. The last two times I have volunteered to be a leader of a group. It is an absolute riot to do this. We walk together to a gym site, like the county courthouse, do the raid which can take 5-10 minutes, then move to the next gym site. I help create a private raid group, make sure we are all ready, and then decide when to move as a group to the next raid site. I have my limits as a leader; some of the leaders are more savvy about techniques of raiding than I am. But it takes me back to my work days when I took students on field trips to local colleges. My work skills have come in handy!
There are players who want to raid quickly as their goal is to do as many raids as possible. We are not in that category. The last raid group I lead was comprised of family members and new players. I love being in raids with children who are so expressive about their thrill of catching their Pokémon. And seeing grandparents, parents and children playing together. It’s just adorable.
To an onlooker, we look, um, interesting, as we move in groups of around a dozen people, clump around a certain spot for a bit, tapping our mobile devices, then moving on. (We do need to work on our sharing-the-sidewalk skills.) What an onlooker may miss is the amount of interacting we are doing while tapping our phones. I have met people in these raid events, and have become friends in the Pokémon Go game. On our morning walk, Ken and I ran into one of the people we had met on a raid and got to know each other better. We found out he is a retired local police officer. How cool!
Non-players hanging out in downtown Lawrence are starting to figure us out. One time we walked past several panhandlers, who, when we said “Hi”, said, “You’re playing Pokémon Go, right?” They know the look too.
Another feature is the EX Raid, that certain gyms in which we raid are eligible for the EX Raid pass. When we raid at these gyms, it can result in being invited to a raid for a legendary Pokémon only attainable through the EX Raid. These raids are at a set time, with no option to change that time. Which wasn’t too hard for my retired self, but more of a challenge for people with, you know, jobs. I managed to get invited six times, and attended four of them. I missed two of them as I was out of town for friend or family commitments.
Becoming friends is a new feature of the game. I am not sure “friends” is an accurate word for this, as I don’t have to know these people to become friends. We are given a “trainer code” and exchange each other’s codes. We build our “friendships” by interacting in a couple of ways in the game. If we interact daily, our friendship level can increase at a daily pace as well. They have extra perks for reaching the highest level of friendship; best friends. (Since I don’t have to know these people to become friends, I think it is wise that we do not have a direct messaging system, as this could lead to exploitation. Pokémon Go is intended to be a family game, so it should stay kid-friendly and kid-safe.)
3. When Pokémon Go first came out, it exploded worldwide with players. After several months, the number of players dramatically declined, although it still was stayed at the top of mobile games played. My adult children and extended family were in that mass exodus. With these new features, there has been renewed interest in the game, including my adult children and my extended family. We have now raided together, become friends in the game and talk about the latest news. I send them screenshots when I catch something interesting, and sometimes they send me something too. I pretty much love this added interaction with them.
I know I play Pokémon Go more often than some folks and not as much as others we have met these last few months. It is a fun activity for my husband and me. My parents square-danced together, Ken and I play Pokemon Go together. I’m going to continue to get out there and play. I just don’t need to “catch ’em all” anymore.