Storytime: How Pokemon GO Changed Everything

Storytime: How Pokemon GO Changed Everything

Pokemon GO was a phenomenon that took the world by storm when it launched in July of 2016. You couldn’t go anywhere in urban, suburban or even rural areas without seeing small (and sometimes very large) pockets of people huddled around more notable parts of the town feverishly swiping at their phones in hopes of catching an ever elusive Dragonite or other rare first generation Pokemon.

I too was a major player at the time, and it wasn’t too long before I’d caught each of the Pokemon available to us in Australia from Gen 1. This past Friday (The 17th of Feb for those of you counting), it was my birthday, and while the gifts were awesome, and the love I received from both my family, students, colleagues and my fiancé was all very humbling, Niantic gave me the best gift of all. On February 17th, 2017, Gen 2 of Pokemon GO arrived, and I found myself tumbling right back down the well once again.

As it rolled into 2017, I thought I was slowly tiring of Pokemon GO. It had me in its very firm grip for the better part of six months, but having had everything available to me (in Australia anyway), my interest was slowly waning. Sure, the Christmas X New Year event that saw a slew of new baby Pokemon emerge was a little tease, but the fact that I just had to have the game on in my pocket as I walked around and went about normal activities meant I wasn’t really invested in the game. It was becoming a chore, a daily routine that I conducted, but one that I really didn’t need to do, and so every now and then a day would pass where I hadn’t cashed out on my held Gyms, or I didn’t swipe a Pokestop and cash a ‘mon for the day. Earlier in the week of the 17th though the announcement finally dropped – Gen 2 was coming… and it was coming this week. Suddenly I was at fever pitch once again and I was doing everything I could to ensure I was ready for the onslaught to come.

I was caught off guard at 10AM on February 17th, I’d only 15minutes earlier finished teaching my class, I’d gotten a drink and returned to my desk, only to flick open my phone and notice a peculiar thing…. There were some silhouettes of uncaught Pokemon on the games nearby radar! Scooping up my keys I ran out and caught the critter and bolted off to see what else I could find. I nearly rocked up late to my 10:30 class because I was busy catching Pokemon and thankfully I’ve regained composure once again within working hours, but from that moment on I knew that I’d been bitten by the bug once again.

At times before Gen 2 rolled out, I’d let the game get the better of me, I’d been late to prior commitments because I thought “Oh, I can do one more lap of this oval because maybe a Dratini will appear”, and I’ve lost sleep because of a late night chase, but Pokemon GO has been the reason for a number of other treasured memories as well. Some of my favourite moments of the last year have been of myself and my fiancé (then girlfriend) traipsing around through our hometown, wading through running rivers and bolting from one point to another in the pursuit of the elusive virtual creatures. The adrenaline rush I’ve gotten from when we spot something nearby and go hurtling after is incredible to experience, but it was a feeling that had vanished after I’d caught them all the first time around. Now that the second generation has arrived I’ve already experienced that feeling a few times again, and I look forward to the next time the rush kicks in – it’s not one that a video game has ever elicited from me, but it’s one that I’d love to see developers look to hone in on in the future.

If you speak to most Pokemon GO players, current or lapsed, most will say that the 7 month wait between generations was far too long, and there wasn’t enough content in the game to satiate the appetite between generations. Many will understandably say that finding the perfect IV Pokemon isn’t a priority for them, and the competitive Gym scene is too time consuming – these are all reasonable arguments to make. While that scene is always going to remain busy thanks to myself and others like me who are always looking for ways to improve their party and gradually take over the world, Niantic cannot afford to hold their finger over the button for nearly as long in this gap between Gen 2 and Gen 3. The player drop off between these two generations was steep. While many players have returned, and even at its worst Pokemon GO was still making more that $1million USD a day from its audience, if they’re not a bit smarter about their release windows then you can expect that with the rollout of each future generation that the addressable audience will continue to diminish.

Pokemon GO was, and still is, a global phenomenon like none most of us have ever seen. It’s one that to this very day has me firmly in its grasp. It’s created so many fun, positive memories, it’s been a bridge to help reunite with an old friend, and it’s helped me to create new friends and meet new people, and every now and then it has been the reason I’ve missed a deadline or two, but outside of that final point I wouldn’t have it any other wa… Oh, sorry, gotta go, there’s a Larvitar nearby!!!

Paul James

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