My interest in Pokemon Go completely died when I hit level 20

Pokémon Go was a great experience. It really was. I wrote before about all the positive interactions I had with players, especially random people I met on the street. But as a game, Pokémon Go was quite lacking, and once I hit level 20 after a ton of grinding, my interest died.

Several factors contributed to this decline. The game’s concept is still amazing, and augmented reality has a bright future. But how do you sustain interest in a game that, fundamentally, isn’t that fun to play?

Now, saying Pokémon Go isn’t fun might be a little harsh. At first, the game was a ton of fun. Finding Pokémon in my front yard, in the supermarket, sitting on top of friend’s shoulders, in the park—that was exciting! As a kid, who didn’t imagine themselves walking through a forest, finding a Pokémon, and catching it? Pokémon Go made that fantasy a reality.

Many people complained about the substandard battle system in Pokémon Go, and those criticisms are relevant. But to me, the fun was in capturing Pokémon, evolving them, naming them, and helping them grow. Unfortunately, the game was severely unbalanced, and at times unfair, on all these mechanics.

To start, there are far too many Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Weedles, as this parody “Pokémon Go Rap” emphasizes:

Everybody learned early on that these Pokémon only had one value: to evolve them quickly to gain experience. Pidgeys and Weedles took 12 candies to evolve, giving players 500 XP. Rattatas took more candy, 25, but there are so many Rattatas I usually have a stockpile of candy in the triple digits.

Once people learned that these evolutions earned quick XP, they started to see the value in Lucky Eggs. This item doubles your experience for 30 minutes. The optimal game strategy is obvious: save your Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Weedles, use a Lucky Egg, then spend the next 30 minutes evolving everything in your bag, racking up thousands of XP.

Farming XP is essential to leveling up quickly. Like all RPGs, the amount of XP you needed for each level gradually increases, making leveling up slower. However, the higher levels are essential to finding better Pokemon.

And it’s in this grind that my motivation died. I did the Lucky Egg trick three times and made a concerted effort to hit level 20. That’s when you get access to Ultra Balls!

I also walked a TON. I logged 97.7 km, 2.3 km away from earning the silver Jogger badge. I hatched 27 eggs. Unfortunately, for all that effort, about half of the hatched eggs were useless Pokemon that I could find in the streets easily.

Everybody has their favorite Pokémon. Finding specific Pokémon, however, was next to impossible. It seemed like every other player but me had better Pokémon.

I wanted so bad to get all the Eevees. Eevee was always one of my favorite Pokémon. Every player that I met told me how easy it was to find Eevees.

Maybe not in my neighborhood.

I worked hard to get my measly 25 Eevee candy. The first evolution was Vaporeon, the second was Flareon. And I never worked hard enough to get the one I really wanted: Jolteon.

Pokémon Go also had a way of insultingly making your treasured Pokemon worthless. I would spend hours and hours catching Pokemon to get a new evolution. And then, after spending all that time getting your first version of an evolved form, like Butterfree, you walk outside and find a random Butterfree that has a higher Combat Power than the one you just invested in. Naturally, you send the weaker one back to the Professor.

A final issue that I had with Pokemon Go is that I was rarely able to compete in gym battles. It seemed like every time I found a gym it was already packed with Pokemon in the 2,000-3,000 CP range. I struggled just to get my Pokemon up to 1,000 CP!

My Pokemon team in Pokemon Go

These are my best Pokémon. It’s so sad that Pidgeot, a very common and weak Pokémon, is in my top three.

This is why I never play competitive online games, like Call of Duty or MMORPGs. There are always players out there who invest more time than me, who are objectively better than me at the game, and I can never compete.

That’s not to say I expect to win all the time: but it would’ve been nice to win more than 10 or so gym battles.

I hear there’s a new update to Pokémon Go that adds a lot of neat features. I’m sure it’s fun. But right now, I’m not ready to go back.

I realized right away, within the first week of Pokémon Go’s release, that the joy derived not so much from playing the game, but with being a part of a fad. Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t describe Pokémon Go as a fad as a way of dismissing it! Fads are highly enjoyable, but by their very nature, they fade away.

It was fun to play the game when everybody else was playing.

It was fun to find strangers all over the city, in the park, in the airport, in the store, on campus, EVERYWHERE playing Pokémon Go. The game was an instant conversation starter, and each random conversation was a glimmer of hope that humanity is fundamentally goodhearted. While the faces of those strangers I met are starting to blur, those interactions will stay with me for a long time.

It was fun to discover new Pokémon for the first time, to get new evolutions.

It was fun to hear stories of kids catching 10 CP Pidgeots, and to see the little battle animation above gyms letting you know that somebody, RIGHT NOW, is near you fighting.

It was fun to meet a group of kids telling me to just go around the corner to catch a Spearow. I hadn’t seen a Spearow yet. I searched for it, and didn’t find it, but that’s okay. I felt like an explorer.

But the summer had to come to an end, and the school year started again. While my interest in the game is over for now, I don’t regret the dozens of hours I poured into the game.

For 20 years, Pokémon has seen fad after fad. When Red and Blue hit America, everybody in school was playing it. Then we were watching the anime. Then we saw the first movie in the theaters, and then the second movie, but I never saw any of the others. I played the card game for awhile, and then lost interest.

When Pokémon X and Y was released, I played that game for 4 hours a day for two months. It took me 100 hours just to complete the game because I spent so much time training my Pokémon, catching Pokémon, using Wonder Trade, and battling others.

Even the Twitch Plays Pokémon fad was a glorious 16 days.

And considering I never spent a dime on Pokémon Go, I can’t complain about the hours of enjoyment I had.

Game on,
~Dennis

8 neat things that happened playing Pokemon Go

Pokémon Go has been out for a month, and so far it’s taken the globe by storm. When I first saw the trailer, I was intrigued by the premise, but ultimately not that excited.

Then when the game came out and everybody was talking about it, I had to give it a try.

I’m glad I did. Despite so many server issues and glitches in the game, Pokémon Go is easily the best mobile game I’ve ever played.

Here are 8 neat things that happened to me while playing the game.

1. Finding Marjorie Bailey’s ghost

Okay, so this first story didn’t happen directly to me, but it’s the story that convinced me to download the game.

In college, me and five of my friends rented a house together. It was the first time this house had been rented, as the previous owner was a recently deceased old lady.

While looking through one of the drawers, we discovered an old campaign poster for a woman named Marjorie Bailey. We concocted a fantasy that Marjorie Bailey was the woman who died, and now haunted the house.

Fast forward seven years. My college friends and I had a reunion at my parents’ place. Before he came over, one of my former roommates drove past our old house.

And what did he find? A Ghastly in the front yard! He caught it, and promptly named it “MargeBailey.”

Her ghost exists after all!

Ghastly in Pokemon Go

2. Finding a Krabby in the seafood section

A couple days later, I downloaded the game on the way to the grocery store. I was with Mom, so my job was to push the cart. While in the store, I opened up the game. The first Pokémon I caught was a Krabby, conveniently sitting in the frozen seafood section!

Then I caught a Pidgey next to the chicken.

Krabby in Pokemon Go

3. Opening up my imagination

After that first experience catching Pokémon, I walked around my neighborhood, smartphone in hand. Pokémon kept popping up: Rattatas, Pidgeys, Caterpies, and Spearows. While the game has its flaws, still the most exciting aspect is imagining that Pokémon actually exist, and that they inhabit our world!

While I rarely play with Augmented Reality turned on, the camera feature is a nice touch. For a few moments, I get close to realizing a fantasy that’s been living in my head for 20 years.

Spearow in Pokemon Go

Rattata in Pokemon Go

Weedle in Pokemon Go

4. Finding my first lures

A friend and I had a couple hours to kill before dinner, so we took out our smartphones and started exploring downtown.

A couple minutes later we found a pack of teenagers roaming the city. They told us there was an Abra around the corner, and they were really excited that they caught it.

Abra in Pokemon Go

My friend and I went from Poké Stop to Poké Stop. I looked on the map and saw that one Poké Stop a few blocks away had drifting purple hearts over it. I knew this had to be a lure.

We went to the Stop, and sure enough, the kids we saw earlier had placed a lure. There was a second Poké Stop feet away, so they put a lure on that as well.

For the next 30 minutes, we caught Pokémon after Pokémon. And those lures attracted many others, players more experienced than us, who shared tips on how to get ahead.

We met a dozen people during that half hour. Almost everybody was the stereotypical nerd: a bit goofy looking, a bit socially awkward, but also entirely nice. I was in the company of my people, and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had with the game.

5. Meeting the boys at the mall

I learned early on that high population areas have more Poké Stops, and thus more Pokémon. My neighborhood was pretty barren, plus it was the height of summer, 90+ degrees outside. I headed to the local mall where activity was buzzing.

Upon entering the mall, I found two Poké Stops, each with lures on them. I sat down in the food court and started playing.

Within seconds, two boys and their father were standing behind me, looking over my shoulder. The game had been out less than a week, so most people still didn’t understand how it worked.

I showed the boys my Pokémon, and they watched as I caught a Pidgey and Spearow. They were so excited to see Pokémon pop up right in the food court! They hadn’t played the game yet, and likely didn’t have smartphones themselves.

But I suspect they asked their dad to download it on his smartphones as soon as they left the mall.

Pokemon Go

6. Playing Pokémon Go at church

A couple weeks after the game dropped, my church (Methodist) decided to get in on the action. The church was a Poké Stop, so one forward-looking congregant suggested hosting lure events on the front steps.

Every Sunday and Wednesday nights at 7 the church drops a lure. They have music playing and provide snacks and ice tea to anybody interested. Kids, along with their parents, come out to play. Even the pastor plays!

The lure events have been very successful. Sometimes people simply pass by, but for others it’s a friendly, nonthreatening way to talk to people at the church.

Spiritual conversations don’t happen often, but that’s okay. The church should touch peoples’ lives where they are at. What a great way to show the world that Christians can indeed play video games in a safe, healthy way.

Jigglypuff in Pokemon Go

7. Evolving my first Eevee

One of my all-time favorite Pokémon is Eevee. She’s so cute, and her ability to evolve into many different forms is so much fun.

Eevee in Pokemon Go

When I played Pokémon X and Y, I stuck my toe into the competitive waters. I’d always liked Jolteon, but this game cemented my love for Eevee. I trained a Jolteon and Vaporeon and picked all the right moves. They were the foundation of my fighting team.

Lots of Pokémon Go trainers have Jolteons, Vaporeons, and Flareons. But I have such difficulty finding Eevees!

Finally, after catching hundreds of Pokémon, I had enough Eevee candies to evolve. I spent the 25 candies, and got 950 CP Vaporeon! After training, my Vaporeon is at nearly 1100 CP, and still has room to grow.

Now I just need a Jolteon.

Vaporeon in Pokemon Go

8. Finding a board gaming group

Last night while hanging out at a Poké Stop I met a professor from the university. I met him last year, so I knew him well. He had just started playing the game, and Pokémon was a new concept to him.

We got talking, and he told me that he and his husband host a board gaming group with other professors from the university! I moved to Bloomsburg, PA a year ago and thus far haven’t had any success finding fellow board gamers.

When I lived in Florida (while getting my PhD) and in North Dakota (as an adjunct professor) I had great board gaming groups. That was one of the things I really missed when I came to PA.

Beedrill in Pokemon Go

But now it’s okay; I’ve found a group again! It’s amazing how Pokémon Go, at its best, is a conversation starter. It gives you something to talk about, whether it introduces you to new people, or introduces you to existing friends in new ways.

If you have had any fun experiences playing Pokémon Go, please share in the comments!

Game on,
~Dennis