Screw You, Pikachu!


Yeah, I realized I missed posting last week. Truth is, I’ve been obsessed with something lately — to the point where I’ve stopped thinking about much else.

Back in June, my “friends” Matt McElroy and Monica Valentinelli were trying to convince me that I should give Pokemon Go! a try. They were having fun with it, and could use a third player to join them for raids and Gym battles. As they showed me how the game worked in real time, I became intrigued. I was familiar with the TV series and the collectible card game, so I knew roughly what I was getting into.

I downloaded the game to my phone, and took it for a test-drive around my neighborhood. Who knew there were so many strange critters lurking in the bushes right near my house?
The game uses real-time maps and a GPS system to keep track of where you are in real life. Through some arcane, random process, Pokemon of various types appear near you on the map, and when you are close enough, you can tap on the thingie, and the game moves you into a screen I call “capture mode,” where you see a full-size (well, as far as your phone’s screen is concerned) version of the Pokemon. You then have to cast a Poke-Ball at it, by flicking your finger across the screen. It takes some practice, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly. If you’re lucky, the ball hits the Pokemon and opens, catching the critter. You are awarded points for catching Pokemon (more points if it’s something you’ve never caught before), and sometimes bonus points if the throw was particularly good.

Besides catching Pokemon, another aspect of the game is visiting Gyms and Pokestops to collect more Poke-Balls, healing potions for your Pokemon as they get beat up in Gym battles and raids, and an assortment of other goodies too extensive to list here. I am fortunate (?) in that I have something like 8 Gyms and a dozen or more Pokestops within easy walking distance. You never lose your captured Pokemon to theft or death in game — an innovation that makes the game more family friendly. On the other hand, me prowling around my neighborhood at night is likely not the most calming thing for my neighbors. I’m not a small man, though with my attention drawn to my phone, I’m likely not very threatening to anyone but legions of crawling bugs as I stomp through the night.

Speaking of stomping, I’ve logged over 120km walking in 20 days. For you scoring at home, that is indeed an average of SIX kilometers per day of walking, or 3.7 miles for those of us using antiquated systems of measurement. I used to walk everywhere back in my twenties; since I’ve owned a car, walking had become foreign to me, and I’ve grown a bit of a belly because of it. Now that I’m walking briskly every day, I find I have a bit more energy, and sleep more soundly at night as a bonus. But the obsessiveness is a bit troubling: I’ve spent the last two weeks thinking of little else. Now that I’m at a point where it takes a long time to level up, my interest is cooling just a little — I hope. We’ll see how long that lasts. I’m up to level 23 at present, which represents almost 438,000 experience points. Since catching the average Pokemon nets you about 100 to 200 XP, you can do the math and see how much time I’ve spent playing this damned game over the last three weeks.

The game is free to download to your phone. You literally do not have to pay a penny to play Pokemon Go! if you don’t want to. I’ve been having so much fun with it that I’m determined to spend some money on the game somehow — probably through in-game purchases. I feel it’s only fair to reward people who’ve delivered so much entertainment to me.

Niantic, the developers of the Pokemon Go! App, have taken more than a few hits over various complaints from their customers. Many of the recent ones have to do with the huge event they hosted in Chicago July 22, with absurdly long lines and very poor Internet/Cell reception in the area. I’ve had few problems with the game, and am frankly quite delighted with the experience. There have been occasional glitches, but they have seemed mostly harmless and easy to resolve. When it comes to technology, I’m a late-adopter, so it’s likely many of the hard feelings come from the a year ago when the game was first launched.

The title? During the Chicago event and ever since (so far), Pikachus have been especially difficult to catch. Maybe it’s just me, but they are resistant to all the wiles available to a Pokemon Trainer, and in my frustration, it’s something I find myself saying frequently, as Pikachus bust out of my advanced-level Pokeballs, even with alluring virtual berries given first to calm or tempt the creatures. As you could probably tell from the text, I’m not angry at the game’s designers, but frustrations are bound to happen, and it’s good to take them with a side of humor. Speaking of humor, check out this fake news report on Pokemon GO; it’s pretty funny.

My hat is off as a token of respect to the folks at Niantic. Not only have they delivered a fun, engrossing game, but it’s free to play. A tremendous amount of world-building on the part of the original Japanese creators is also a strong element of the game, and the writer in me deeply appreciates that too. I’m not saying you should run right out and start playing, but if you do, I’m on Team Valor (Red), and my user name is Chopper1805.

Want to download Pokeon Go? Try these links:

For Android phones: http://www.apkmirror.com/apk/niantic-inc/pokemon-go/pokemon-go-0-63-4-release/pokemon-go-0-63-4-android-apk-download/

For Apple devices: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pok%C3%A9mon-go/id1094591345?mt=8

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