Last week sparked the largest fitness fad to hit the world since Wii Fit by Nintendo. I don’t think it was entirely intentional on the part of the Pokemon Company or Niantic. But I also don’t think that it was entirely unexpected. But that isn’t the only result of the launch of Pokemon Go either. People are also getting fresh air and making new friends.
I have been playing Pokemon go for almost a week now and I must say that my kids and I have not had this much fun walking around the neighborhood and the park in a long time.
While I have my fair share of problems with the game, I can say that I am having fun. Of course there are the server problems, the draining of batteries, gobbling of mobile data, the unintentional scooping up of too much private info from Google accounts, and not fully supporting all Android devices. I have one of those devices. The game works fine for me except for the one issue of the Pokemon not being visible for me when I use the game’s AR mode. I can see the Pokemon just fine when I turn that off, but it means the game is less fun for me.
Despite that one problem, I am having fun and getting exercise. This past week, I have learned how to better play the game and my experience has improved. I have caught a number of Pokemon and new ones show up every day I play. However, I have only discovered about 30 of the little critters so far.
My biggest problem with the game is lack of interesting locations around my home and place of employment. The game features Pokestops, locations where you can get free items such as pokeballs and eggs, and Gyms, places where you can actually use your captured Pokemon in battle. To find either of these, I have to travel a good mile or so away from home or work. People who live and work in urban centers don’t have that problem. I have seen pictures of downtown areas of large cities just spilling over with such locations. Yet, I can’t get any without having to travel.
However, city parks seem to have a lot. I was at my kid’s ball game last night and it was right next to a region of the park that had three Pokestops within spitting distance of each other. I was able to camp there for a good 15 minutes or so, I didn’t have time to stay any longer, and gather a decent quantity of pokeballs as well as capture a few Pokemon.
While the game is fun, the largest problem is the fact that I am stuck with some crappy Pokemon in the region. The game is designed to force players to repeatedly catch weak Pokemon that they already own in order to level up. If you don’t level up, you will not be able to strengthen or evolve the Pokemon you have or capture rarer Pokemon. So you have to spend a lot of your pokeballs capturing useless Pokemon in order to capture more powerful ones, if you even have enough pokeballs to get them.
Therein lies the next problem. Each pokeball is a single use item. Even if you miss, you have used a pokeball. Sometimes it can take 10 or more pokeballs before you successfully capture a Pokemon. So far, I have not discovered a way to improve my chances capturing a Pokemon. In the RPGs, you battle using your own Pokemon in order to weaken the wild Pokemon you want to capture. In this game, you just toss pokeball after pokeball until you get lucky. That sucks.
I have yet to attempt a gym battle though. All the gyms in my area are out of my way. I have not had time to stop and play the game where they are. Therein lies yet another problem. If you don’t live, work or frequent an area with a gym, you miss out on that experience. You have to carve time out of your schedule to travel to a gym. That is infeasible for some people. In addition, I have no idea what criteria is used to determine what locations are gyms or Pokestops. So you have to wander around in order to find a good location to play.
I will say that the game has done a lot to get people out and interacting with each other. Last night at the park, I let my kids play the game for a bit and they were excitedly helping one another and talking to other kids in the area about all the Pokemon they have caught. As I looked around, I saw individuals, pairings, and some larger groups obviously playing the game. I even made a quick detour at a Pokestop on my way to buy a milkshake and saw several people in the parking lot who were playing. Similar reports are happening all around the world.
Overall, I am enjoying my experience. I can’t say how long I am going to play. There is just not enough content in my area to keep me that interested. It may be something that I turn on when I know I am going to be in an area with a lot of activity and Pokestops. But it isn’t anything that I will play while at home or even during my normal routine.
If you are a fan of Pokemon and don’t mind the travel and exploration requirements, this is a great game. Even if you are only marginally interested in the property you can have fun, especially if you are near a highly active area everyday. Since it is free, you have little risk in playing the game and a lot of fun to be had by doing so.