My First Day With Pokémon Go

If you, like me, were in elementary school in the late nineties and early 00’s, chances are Pokémon was a pretty big part of your childhood. And wasn’t part of that always the dream of becoming a real life Pokémon trainer (/master/ breeder/ gym leader)?

Fast forward to now, 2016, and the launch of Pokémon Go. When the augmented reality game was first announced almost a year ago, the hype was unreal. I mean, look at this trailer, how could it not be?

But as things progressed with next to no news, people started to doubt. Throughout 2016 several beta testing periods launched through Japan, Australia/ New Zealand, and the USA. I, among many others, watched from afar (although not that “afar” seeing as it’s quicker for me to get to the US than it is for me to get to school…) as people got to test out the much awaited app. I continuously Google’d for updates, with the best source being the Pokémon Go Reddit page.

As much as some people liked it, there was an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Features that people were most looking forward to and have been staples in the handheld Pokémon games like trading, battling wild Pokémon, and Player vs Player (PvP) battling were absent. The “Gotta Catch ’em All” mentality was heightened as the only way to evolve your Pokémon was to collect as many of that one as possible, and collect evolution shards from them. Thus, the whole Ash and Pikachu-esque bond that you build with your Pokémon (especially your starter) is nowhere to be found. But it was still a beta version, and that stuff can be added later, right?

So when Pokémon Go officially launched in Australia, New Zealand, and the USA on July 6th 2016, we had to watch all over again without being able to experience it.

Yesterday (July 7th), my curiosity got the best of me. I got the app and signed up.

Only to be punished with this screen for hours.

One of the biggest issues so far with Pokémon Go is their servers. I mean, it makes sense that they wouldn’t have been able to anticipate just how many twenty-somethings and late-teens would be dying to go out and catch Pokémon on their phones. But really… shouldn’t they have? Hopefully this is something that gets sorted out soon, otherwise I’m sure the launches for more countries will be prolonged even further.

Once it finally started working (AHH!) I logged in with my Google account, was greeted by Professor Willow (I saw someone say that he looks like that guy you know that does Crossfit and won’t shut up about it. It’s true and I laughed) and was prompted to “choose my style”. The customization options are pretty limited. You can choose a male or female avatar, pick hair/ skin/ eye colour and then the colour of the outfit. It would be cool to have more options at some point, but it suits the purpose.

You are then put in a map where you can see the sprite versions of Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle. You pick which one you want to be your starter and are sent into a “battle” to catch it. I didn’t figure out until pretty late that there is an option to actually take a picture so these are pretty much all screenshots.

With each Pokémon you catch, you get Stardust and a specific kind of candy to the evolution line of that Pokémon (if you catch a wild Blastoise, for example, it will have Squirtle candy). To evolve, it will say how many candies are needed.

You are then instructed to check out a PokéStop. These are linked to real world landmarks in your neighbourhood that will release items like PokéBalls and Eggs. I live in a relatively small suburb so there wasn’t as many as I’ve seen people post about when they live in a big city, but there are enough and they are quite accessible. The closest one to me is a tree with a memorial plaque on it. In the above image you can see one (the little blue cubes in a dark green rectangle) that’s a bit farther away. It actually made me pretty emotional because ones of those little white squares (houses) across from it is where I grew up. The landmark is the park across from my old house, and pretty much my whole childhood was spent in that park. It’s even where we’d meet up with our neighbours to play Pokémon and trade cards. It gave me some serious feels to be going back there to play “real” Pokémon.

Another issue people are reporting is the lack of available usernames. This will probably escalate as more people join the game, making it especially difficult for people in countries where the game hasn’t been released yet to get a username they want. Luckily for me, I got my first choice. So yay!

I spent some time going around around and finding some different PokéStops and scoping out where the gyms are. You can’t do anything with the gyms until you’re level five, which I am not. However, someone has already taken control of the gyms as I can see different Pokémon on them, so someone around here has downloaded the game as well which is pretty cool! I caught a few Pokémon (A WILD _____ HAS APPEARED) on my way too! I mostly received PokéBalls from the stops, and two eggs. To hatch them you put them in an incubator (in your inventory) and you have to walk a certain amount of distance in order for them to hatch. Since it’s done through GPS and not a pedometer, walking on a treadmill or around your house won’t count towards this. Not that I tried that or anything….

To share my hype I was texting my brother (who isn’t living at home for the summer) and he ended up downloading it as well. He got his first choice of usernames too, so that was exciting!

I went out again (in the rain… haha) and caught a few more Pokémon. A little panel shows up in the bottom right hand corner showing you shadows of Pokémon that are nearby (all those years of Who’s That Pokémon are paying off!) and footsteps indicating how close they are (one for really close, two for moderately near, and three for keeeeep walking buddy). An Eevee showed up on mine so I was determined to track it down.

I caught it with one percent battery left… and was very proud of myself. You can see the gym on the map below, and some other nearby Pokémon.

So here’s the thing. If you go into playing this game with the expectations of it being like a virtual reality version of the Gameboy games, you’re going to be disappointed. You’re not fighting other trainers, you’re not fighting gyms for badges, you’re not facing the Elite Four, and you’re not linking up with your friends to trade or battle.

A lot of people are disappointed and have already deleted the game because it wasn’t what they were hoping for. Fair enough.

With that said, if you go into this with an open mind and play it for what it is, it can be really fun. I was running into parks and to baseball stadiums (and creeping through a golf course looking REAL sketchy) to get these PokéStops. I jumped up and down with excitement when I caught an Eevee. In the rain. By myself. On the side of a busy road. It is what you make it, and it can be a really fun adventure.

One thing I really like (or dislike, depending on my mood haha) is that you can’t play this sitting at home on the couch. It forces you to get out and explore. I was running through the field of my old elementary school at dusk through puddles in my hunter boots and just genuinely having fun. I’m gonna start running again even if it’s just to hatch eggs! I am really excited for my brother to come home because I think this game would be even more fun with another person 🙂

Hopefully the servers get sorted out soon (I’m writing this out while I wait for it to start working again… I want to see what those gyms are about!) and the app is released in more countries as well. I hope a patch or something is added soon where we can battle our friends and maybe even wild Pokémon instead of just throwing the Pokéball at them (although, that is harder than it sounds!). Just a heads up that this app KILLS your battery and needs data/ GPS to work.

So I hope this gives a bit of a look at what my first day playing Pokémon Go was like and what my first impressions were. I hope that you’ll give it a shot, even if it’s not what you were expecting.

Go have fun! 🙂

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