You can only go so far in Pokémon Go

I’ve waited since late-1998 to be able to leave home and actually go on a quest to become the world’s best Pokémon trainer. Almost eighteen years later that dream has sort of come true, with Pokémon Go trickling out to region-specific releases via the App Store and Google Play store today.

This morning I got a text from my girlfriend that a friend of hers had found the game on the App Store, which prompted me to hurriedly find it too. Since the game is getting a “soft release,” as opposed to a full-blown release filled with fanfares and confetti, it took some scrolling but it was there. According to my Twitter feed this morning it was only available on the NZ and Australian stores at the time, and some people within those regions had trouble even downloading the game leaving them to speculate the game was pulled. However many others were excited to report they managed to download it just fine, myself included.

…Ahem.

After creating my character and finding all three Gen 1 starters were nearby according to my map, a squirtle was sitting in front of me on my bed via my phone’s camera and augmented reality. So I did what any trainer would do: I threw a pokéball at it (by quickly swiping up on my phone’s screen) and caught it!

Thus sparked my morning jubilation: I’m going out to catch Pokémon today. Looking at the game’s map I found there were points of interest within streets of my house, including a gym. I had only just become level 1, but the gym requires players to achieve level 5 in order to battle. The way to level up is to get outside and start walking. I got up, got dressed, filled my water bottle, grabbed my satchel and snapped a selfie to declare myself to the world (of social media).

 

BRB, being the best there ever was. ?? #PokemonGO -@ManJello

A photo posted by Player Attack (@playerattack) on

After turning the closest corner off my street, I encountered my first wild Pokémon: a geodude. After capturing it, I continued walking a couple of streets onward and found a kangaskhan. Then a caterpie. Then a ghastly. At this point I had walked up to a location the game tags as a Pokéstop; a landmark or public spot that players interact with in the game to receive a few extra items such as pokéballs. From doing this I remembered this was a free-to-play game, and should find out what micro-transactions it has in store.

IMG_3093Pokémon Go equips players with over 50 pokéballs to use for capturing, since quite often you can miss the Pokémon while throwing (like I did, wasting many balls). If you have a few — up to well over a hundred — Earth dollars to spare, you can buy in-game currency which will then allow trade-ins for other in-game items like incense for attracting Pokémon for thirty minutes; a lure module which does the same thing but specifically for Pokéstops so others can catch monsters; eggs for walking with to hatch; a bigger backpack for storing more items; plus more. The game states that eggs can also be found at Pokéstops, but of the eight or so that I came across they all only contained pokéballs. The game gives players the chance to store up to 250 monsters, with expansions of 50 slots to be purchased for 200 pokécoins (100 of which costs AU$1.49).

Taking a look into the game’s pokédex revealed that Pokémon Go currently has 133 monsters to find out in the real world and so far all twelve of my caught friends are Gen 1. Given that the game has only just been released and is a service that Nintendo has put considerable support into licensing to third party Niantic, Inc. in conjunction with Google (of which a Google account is needed to sign up to play), it’s a safe bet that we’ll see updates/expansions to Pokémon Go that will sustain longevity and engagement.

During my trip the game encouraged me to walk to areas I hadn’t been to before, especially since I only moved into the area a month ago. Thanks to the game I became more familiar with my new suburb (just a few minutes out from Adelaide city) which took me through streets, public parks, open reserves and even along the River Torrens looking for Pokémon and Pokéstops to gain XP. Unfortunately this is where the game’s weaknesses showed themselves.

First off is how much of a drain on the battery it can be. I’m playing on an iPhone 6 which had Spotify playing in the background (evidenced by the photo earlier) and despite switching on battery saving mode in the game’s settings, the game is constantly using geo data and rendering 3D so my phone went from 85% to 25% within an hour of playing/walking. In that time I had walked about two kilometres away from home, in an area I’m unfamiliar with, and eventually had to open my proper maps app to make sure I knew how to get home in case the battery did end up dying. Then, thanks to Adelaide’s winter weather, this happened:

Despite the increased drizzling, I was adamant to get one more Pokéstop which was in the middle of a reserve I’d found myself in. The other issue was that a family was standing right at the spot the game generated a Pokéstop, which caused me to look like some bearded creeper with a bag and his phone out trying to get closer to them. It was then that I was grateful a marker hadn’t shown up at the primary school near my house, which would prove problematic if I indeed become a regular player having to walk to nearby children’s gathering spots trying to catch Pokémon. I guess we’ll have to see how the game opens up and continues to tag new places nearby.

In the hour and a half of becoming the best the ever was I ventured forth with enthusiasm, discovered new places, listened to music I hadn’t heard since childhood, drained my phone’s battery, got lost, got soaked in rain, reached level 4 (didn’t make it to the gym – story of my life, right?) and had to go home. But was it worth it?

Yeah, a little bit.

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