Pokemon are GO!

Scroll down below for my day to day updates on me playing Pokemon Go!

Latest update: Sunday 10/7/2016
Friday 8/7/2016
Saturday 9/7/2016

For those of you who’ve been hiding under a Geodude for the last few days, the long anticipated Pokemon GO was launched in Australia and New Zealand just 3 days ago on July 6th. Pokémon GO is an AR (augmented reality) game developed by Niantic (of Ingress fame) for iOS and Android devices. The game allows players trainers to capture, battle, train, and trade virtual Pokémon who appear throughout the real world.

I have not been this excited about Pokemon since Twitch Plays Pokemon.

When the trailer was announced, I was somewhat skeptical just because it played too much like utopian “look at all the possibilities” Apple-esque advertisement. However rewatching it will show you some future add-ons to the game that Niantic hopefully has plans to have such as trading Pokemon, battling other trainers and giant community battles featuring us against the likes of Mewtwo.

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Comic via VGCats

For some demographics, perhaps anyone who isn’t within the 18 – 28 year old age group, the phenomenon of seeing one in every five people on the street glued to their Pokemon map is confusing and overwhelming. To explain, Pokemon Go is awesome because we’re finally as close as we’ve ever been to emulating being a Pokemon trainer as per the days of the Gameboy games, Red, Blue and Yellow.

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This is quite literally what we did when playing the game as kids, your trainer sprite travelled from city to city, discovering Pokemon in the wild, battling trainers and claiming bragging rights by smacking gym leaders upside down. Way back when Malaysia was home and I was a dumpy (dumpier) little adolescent, I spent a month living with my relatives in Sydney and every morning would religiously wake up at 6 am to train my Pokemon with my cousin before he had to go to school. This is an incredible feat considering how much I was not a morning person growing up and was never able to wake up for anything else like school, which was probably kind of important.

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That’s the thing about RPGs, as the name role-playing games might suggest, is about pulling the user into becoming the game character. All good games give you an immersive experience but games like Pokemon. My first Pokemon game was Pokemon Yellow which meant I was far more exposed to the likes of Pikachu over the elemental trio Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle.

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I was also and probably still am, a pretty terrible player. And with my Pikachu whose lightning attacks were completely nullified and my army of Pidgeys, I absolutely hated Pewter City. But facing adversity together breeds camaraderie I guess, which is why 17 years after my first foray into Pokemon gaming, I’m sitting here writing this post in a Pikachu onesie.

If the 1999 version of the Pokemon game series was able to create these kinds of emotive experience, it’s really no-wonder that everyone who grew up with it is playing Pokemon Go. The proof is in the Razz Berry, within 24 hours of its launch on the US App Store, Pokemon Go has skyrocketed to the number 1 free app download.

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In primary school we used to draw out battles on pieces of paper, having committed Pokemon stats and attacks to memory, and “battle” via ad hoc calling out of fighting moves and subjective reducing of HP using an eraser. It’s absolutely insane to think how far we’ve come from those days with technological advancements. At the moment, the gameplay is a little different from the original and somewhat restrictive in terms of how you can train your Pokemon. Levelling is done via feeding a Pokemon its specific candy e.g. Caterpie candy for Caterpies. You can get candy from catching more of the same types of Pokemon as the Pokemon will come with it, and also transferring extra Pokemon to the Professor who will give you candy in return. This can end up meaning that the rare Pokemon you caught is going to stay low-levelled because it’s hard to find more of its kind. And also that everyone is running around with strong Doduo/Dodrios and Zubat/Golbats because they’re the most common Pokemon around. Battling for now only happens at gyms but there are lots dispersed around Sydney at least. Pokestops are landmarks scattered throughout the city which you can ‘spin’ to get items from like Pokeballs, potions, berries and the occasional Pokemon egg. Discovering Pokestops has actually been quite educating for me, the stops aren’t necessarily huge landmarks like the Opera House or Sydney Tower. The ones that I’ve seen have been random things like park and school plaques, graffiti that I never even knew was there, and some of my favourite cafes.

The most interesting part of the game for me is that it forces the trainer to physically leave the house and go outside. Your character can’t move unless the GPS on your phone moves and there’s a very limited amount of things you can do while static unless you have lots of Pokestops and gyms nearby. This has led to people inadvertently meeting up at Pokestops around the city and talking and getting to know each other, so +5 EXP points on creating a social experience in the real world. Walking is also huge in the game, you can be in a moving vehicle and still play but I find that it’s far easier to discover Pokemon and items if you’re walking. There are also elements of the game where you have to walk such as hatching Pokemon eggs, the game doesn’t register movement at speeds that are too high so you can’t hack it by driving. To me, it’s the best that video games has ever been able to do in terms of gamifying health and fitness, far more than anything I’ve played on the Wii, it’s even better than DDR.

I remember being insanely disappointed on my 10th birthday when I wasn’t given my Pokemon trainer licence. And then at 11 when my Hogwarts letter didn’t arrive, needless to say those years were incredibly dark years for me. Little did I know that my journey would begin years later at age 24.  The game is still new, somewhat glitchy, experiences a fair bit of server downtime and a little restrictive. But in terms of essentially realising every millennials dream come true, heck yes, is it super effective.

That’s it for me on the game itself. My friend Christopher Nheu over at Mad Paws wrote an incredible detailed post here which deep dives into the hook model and how Pokemon Go ticks all the boxes for creative an addictive user experience. Read on below for my day to day trainer updates!

Thursday 7th July 2016

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I got the game the day after it was launched because I was still stuck on the Malaysian App Store, seven years since I moved to Australia. No other app has been able to get me off my ass to do this. You get to pick your starter (no Pikachu option though) so I went with Bulbasaur! Si Hijau is a nickname in Malay and roughly translates into Greeny.

 

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The game was quite glitchy for me on this day plus I have a desk job so I wasn’t able to do much. There were a few Pokestops near where I work though so I could farm for items every time the stops replenished which was quite often!

 

Friday 8th July 

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The bane of my existence. I have a really early and very uninteresting commute to gym and work so I was really pumped that morning to get my game going.

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Rainy Friday night with a whole lot of Bellsprouts

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Walking home after work from my bus stop and my first egg finally hatched!

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I stood in the rain waiting for the big moment and was rewarded with a Pikachu! A super climactic start to my Poke egg journey. Little did I know that you get a lot of dud eggs as well, I’ve since hatched a Caterpie and a Zubat..

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Pokestops within reach from my house and there is also a gym which is literally where I live.

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One of my more notable catches on that day. Because it’s so hard to find other Poliwhirls though, he’s dropped significantly on the Poke roster. CP refers to combat power.

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At Level 5, you can start battling gyms. You’re asked to pick one of three teams, and the way it works is you can battle gyms belonging to other teams and work towards kicking them out to claim it for your own colours. The descriptions that the team leaders gave was a bit cheesy and it didn’t seem like any of them represented the creed of the original Pokemon game aside from Valor which was about ‘strength through training’. At the moment I don’t think the team you pick really matters and I ended up going with yellow because it resonated with me the most as Pokemon Yellow was my first ever Pokemon game. Here in Sydney, I’ve seen a whole lot more red and blue gyms around so I imagine that’s it’s slighted towards.

 

Saturday 9th July 

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Finally a day off work so I got up early with the intention of walking to the park near my place to catch Pokemon. Had to dress appropriately, also the return of my dry spell on Snapchat.

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When you put it all together it’s quite staggering the amount of Pokemon and specifically, Pikachu, merchandise I own.

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A couple of Pokedolls that I got for Christmas last year.

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My final form!

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Managed to drag my mom out for the experience as well, this is her with a Magikarp.

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And the rest of the morning was kind of like this. Super annoyed because I used Incense which is meant to attract Pokemon to you for 30 minutes. The 30 minutes actually continues to time even when you’re out of the app or when the app isn’t working.


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When you take a break and turn location services off, you’re suddenly in the middle of the ocean.

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Caught two Clefairies in a row!

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Necessity breeds begrudging acceptance. I never liked Doduo or any Normal/Flying Pokemon but my side of Sydney feels like it’s been infested with these stupid birds.

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So it was quite easy to level up to get a Dodrio.

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The Dodrio is what let me to finally take over the gym where I live, even if momentarily for five minutes. It took pretty much all of my strong Pokemon so when claiming the gym I had to surrender my next best.

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Which was another Doduo. But hey, brief success!

 

Sunday 10th July 

With my family visiting me this week, the plan was to show them around some of the prettier parts of Sydney and for me, to get some Pokemon catching done in a new area. Food won over seeing the sights though, as it tends to in family, so instead of checking out Centennial Park to any great detail or visiting Manly, we ended up rounding back to Marrickville. This was unfortunately a bit of a dud trip as there was nothing really there besides more shitty Doduo. If I didn’t keep transferring them to the Professor I would have enough to start a Doduo ranch.

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Today was also about evolutions. I realised I had actually racked up a significant amount of candy across some of the more basic Pokemon. Even though evolving low CP Pokemon doesn’t raise their CP up by much, you get a huge amount of EXP for each evolution. I have a Metapod, Kakuna, Weepinbell, another Poliwhirl and another Dodrio. I also evolved a Pidgey so now I have a Pidgeotto. It’s got decent CP compared to the rest of my team but I don’t really need it with all of my Doduos. At least it looks impressive, like it has one of those hipster haircuts that are oh so popular with the boys of Sydney.

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Another highlight of the day included catching not one but two Eevees while I was passing through the city. Going to have to catch 10,000 6 more at least until I can evolve it. The eeveeolutions are unfortunately chosen at random but even if I could decide I’d be quite torn.  I’m very, very partial to a Jolteon because might is light(ning) but also conscious I don’t have any fire Pokemon which would be uber useful with all the grass and bug types crawling around the city. So Flarion might be the one I need.

Untitled-4Momentarily reclaimed my gym. The only times I’m ever able to beat a gym is if there aren’t too many rival Pokemon defending it and if I happen to have a lot of Pokemon that are strong against the defending types. So far I’ve only been successful twice and it wipes out my entire fleet of good Pokemon. The average CP of my top 6 is around the 300+CP mark but the guys that live around me can peak up to 1000+. This has been a cause for concern amongst a lot of players lately. FOMO is actually real because everyone is constantly levelling up and not playing even for a little while would technically set you back against the rest of the community. I’m not really sure how newbies are meant to jump onboard in terms of battling at gyms at least because there’s already a lot to catch up on.

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Line up at the moment. Let’s all pray to Helix that the server isn’t down during my commute tomorrow!

samanthawxlow

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