In the past couple of weeks, I've felt more and more like I don't actually live in England, and that instead, I've been transported into the Kanto region. I'm half expecting Ash Ketchum to jump out at me while I'm walking down the street, possibly mistaking me for a Snorlax (trust me, there's not much difference).
Essentially, Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. As of the 11th July, in the USA alone, there were around 21 million active daily users. Let that sink in for a second, Pokémon Go is officially the most popular mobile game in US history, like...ever.
When the game was released, I decided I had to give it a go. I mean, how hard could it be to catch a Charizard in the middle of rural England? With a skip in my step, my girlfriend's phone in my hand (mine wouldn't run the app), and my elite team (my girlfriend and her sister) at my side, I set off into the unknown!
At first, the feeling of catching a Pidgey or a Rattata just down the street was so exciting! However, after catching my 27th Rattata in a row, I began to feel less like Ash Ketchum, and more like the Pied Piper...
However, as I began to level up, rarer and more diverse Pokémon began to spawn. Soon I was catching Pokémon like Drowzee, Koffing, and the intimidating monster that is Caterpie.
Poké stops also provided a good boost on the move, giving extra Pokéballs and goodies like revives and potions. Generally, the game was going well.
Now, let's rewind juuuust a little bit...
When I first said that myself and my elite team had set off into the unknown, I may have slightly overlooked a few small details about the experience as a whole. Firstly, you could say that all three of our elite team weren't exactly the most athletic people. Personally, the only exercise I really did was walking to the coffee shop in town. Other than that, we were all generally the types of people who excelled at sitting, watching Lord of the Rings, and eating ice cream. So this sudden lifestyle change of becoming long-distance walkers was really a shock to the system.
Secondly, I may have got carried away in my first ever Pokémon Go experience. In my head, I was picturing Ash Ketchum, leaving his home town with his backpack, ready to explore the world and catch Pokémon!
Unfortunately, in my daydreaming state, I failed to notice the warning message the game presented during its loading screen, "Be aware of your surroundings at all times". I was moving quickly towards a Poké stop in my local park, which unfortunately was situated at the bottom of a particularly muddy hill. In my head, all I could hear was the Pokémon theme tune, willing me on to be the very best, all the time not looking up from the app.
The Poké stop was only a few steps away, my character running closer towards it with every excited step...and then suddenly I wasn't stepping anymore, I was sliding.
I'd unknowingly stepped on to a particularly slippery patch of muddy grass, and as I slid down the hill, I felt my dream of becoming the very best ebbing further and further away. I hit the ground, my clothes caked in mud and dirt and god knows what else... To be really honest, it wasn't my proudest moment, and quite frankly I don't think any Pokémon would really want me to be their trainer after that display. The park used mud slide, and it was super effective.
To this day, my girlfriend still won't let me live that moment down. I shuffled back home, looking like I'd been in a fight with a particularly angry mud-throwing child.
Now, if you take heed of the awareness warning, while also having a strong 3G signal, Pokémon Go is actually an incredible game. It's encouraged a generation of gamers, both young and old alike, to explore their surroundings, all whilst getting a good bit of exercise into their day, at the same time as being able to live the dream of being a real Pokémon trainer. Admit it, you always wanted to be able to catch Pokémon in real life, and this is the closest we've ever gotten to that dream.
The premise is quite simple, catch wild Pokémon, visit Poké stops to gather resources, and use the Pokémon you catch to battle gyms for extra rewards and reputation. But this relatively simple formula is unbelievably effective it seems. Already, videos have surfaced of crowds of people swarming certain landmarks, in order to catch rare Pokémon, or to visit a particularly popular Poké stop. I've read stories of people who have overcome anxiety disorders through playing Pokémon Go, as it encourages them to get out of the house and explore! It really is a brilliant idea, and Nintendo deserve a lot of credit for creating one of the most revolutionary games of this generation.
So, overall, I'd really recommend that you give Pokémon Go a try! Even if you're not really into gaming, it can be a really simple and fun way to liven up the walk to town, or to anywhere really! Before you know it, you'll be checking every nook and cranny for Pokémon, frantically running down the street as a Squirtle spawns nearby.
And if you're still hesitant, let me ask you, do you wanna be the very best?
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