When autumn approaches, people typically ask others what they did during the summer. In NYC summer 2016, the answer for most people will probably be “I played Pokemon GO“. Ever since the launch on July 6, New York City’s streets have been saturated with Pokemon GO players. There isn’t a single corner you turn where you will not see someone looking intently at their phone, occasionally halting to swipe their smart phone screen. There have been events created for Pokemon GO players to meet up, throw down lure modules, catch Pokemon, and perhaps take over some gyms.
Then again, this game needs no official Facebook event because as long as there is a lure module, Pokemon GO players within the vicinity will flock toward that PokeStop. Before you know it there is a group of people posted around one landmark and cycling through lure modules to keep a steady flow of Pokemon coming. I would like to talk about my experiences at a specific place that is one of the most popular places to Pokemon GO in NYC, Central Park. Central Park has practically become the HQ for Pokemon GO. I have gone there on several occasions and there is always a bunch of lure modules placed around the clusters of landmarks in the Grand Army Plaza area. I imagine the halal and hotdog stands are making a killing with this new craze. A young man even printed out team logo pins from his 3D printer and sold them for $5. It might be a good investment to go out there with a cooler full of beverages and sell them. In Central Park you will see crowds of people from different ages and backgrounds, coming together to play Pokemon GO.
Many people say that prior to July 6, they have been cooped up indoors. Pokemon GO is motivating them to go outside, walk and travel to various places. Other people admit that this game has made them more sociable, serving as an outlet to meet new people. Others report significant weight loss and stamina increase within the last two weeks. Walking around aimlessly can become grueling, but when your calves and feet are burning, Pokemon GO keeps you going. It’s really fun when you hear someone yell “A Charizard is here!” and a stampede of Pokemon GO players rush toward the reported Charizard location to catch him. There have been chants such as cheering their own team, “Team Mystic!” or rally’s saying “What do we want? Better Servers! When do we want them? Now!” Like attending any other geek culture event, you will see people wearing various animated t-shirts and accessories that are Pokemon themed, but not limited to it. I have yet to see cosplay, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened. Parked by Grand Army Plaza’s cluster of PokeStops stood a Pokemon themed car with the original cartoon theme playing on the speakers.
For most of us, Pokemon GO is a road to nostalgia where we experience the original 151 Pokemon again like we did as kids, bringing us back to the 90’s. Many people blast the original theme from their smart phone’s to feed the experience. There is a large population of players who never got into Pokemon or gaming period, but are completely immersed into this game. One of the funniest things is hearing those new to the franchise pronounce a Pokemon‘s name incorrectly such as one person who stated: “look I caught a Radish!” While the game might not be praised in its gameplay, it excels in creating a whole new approach to gaming.
Thanks to Pokemon GO, I met three friends that I play video games with on the PlayStation, whom I have never met in person. I bumped into about 10 friends that I haven’t seen in years within the span of two weeks! One of my major complaints of adulthood is my peers no longer go outside enough, and this game has changed that immensely. I purchased a mount for my phone to ride my bike around and Pokemon GO safely, a portable charger and a waterproof phone case just in case I get rained on. I even upgraded my smartphone to have a smoother experience, although it still isn’t as smooth as I would like it to be. There is no denying that Pokemon GO has brought gaming to a whole new level. I seldom play mobile games for more than 2 days, and this is hands down the best mobile game experience. It is the first mobile game that has taken me away from my PlayStation 4 and motivated me to go outside. Now I’m trying to motivate myself to stay home and platinum Doom before I start graduate school in late August, but Pokemon GO is too addictive.
Pokemon GO has a tutorial like Dark Souls, non-existent. People have come together to share their discoveries and provide tips to fellow players. This game isn’t like the turn-based handheld version that most fans know. It just drops you in and expects you to figure it all out. I have learned more about this game through people and forums, than I have the actual game. I suppose that was its intention considering it promotes traveling and socializing. It is interesting to hear all of the information and theories people have come up with. Players have been asking one another what cellphone providers they use, because apparently T-Mobile users are having the most issues. Apparently,the more Trainers present, the more likely you are to spot rare Pokemon. I can confirm both of these theories. Other theories that have been confirmed by authentic sources are naming the Eevee Pokemon after the respective names from the cartoon, in order to get the desired evolution (Rainer for Vaporeon, Sparky for Jolteon and Pyro for Flareon). An app called Poke Radar is helping players figure out what locations specific Pokemon are nested. There are even Pokemon that are limited to specific continents (Tauros to North America, Farfetch’d to Asia, Kangaskhan to Australia, and Mr. Mime is Europe). I am curious to see what new discoveries Pokemon GO players come up with and share.
There is a minority of New Yorkers who aren’t playing Pokemon GO and they tend to be either annoyed or humored. Some have come up with conspiracy theories such as “they’re using this game to distract people from the real issues in this world”. Some are concerned that the government is using it as a surveillance device and the rest feel like it is down right unsafe. What social media app (SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or media outlet period (TV, music, video games) isn’t a distraction from reality? What device with GPS or apps that require permissions isn’t some sort of privacy breaching, surveillance device? Just like texting or drinking, you must do so responsibly. Plus, the game clearly reminds you to “stay alert and be aware of your surroundings” in its loading screen. I will admit, kids shouldn’t play this game unsupervised. As much as Pokemon GO gives NYC a 90’s feel, things aren’t as safe as they were back then. Unfortunately, there are still people out there who are using lure modules to rob smartphones. Another big issue coming up is Pokemon GO players are camping at these PokeStops and leaving their litter behind. A friendly reminder to please use a trash can and keep NYC clean. There is no denying that Pokemon GO has brought kids outside again.
Niantic Inc. reported that they will be intermittently working on server issues. About 5 days after the US release, Pokemon GO was playing more smoothly up until they released it to the UK and Canada. When I was in Central Park there was about an hour where the servers were down and one girl yelled “Fuck Canada”. While this isn’t Canada’s fault, I do agree that they should have fixed the server issues for the US before extending its release.
Once the servers were back on, this location in Central Park filled within 5 seconds! I’m not even over-exaggerating. Niantic Inc. also stated they would implement a trading system, which I imagine will not only increase social interactions but extend the longevity of the game. Will this Pokemon GO phenomenon last when the summer is over? Either way, it has made summer of 2016 in NYC the best summer in a while.