Pokémon Go Came Out In the US, Let’s Catch ‘Em All

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It’s happened! It’s finally happened! Pokémon Go, the augmented reality pocket monster game for iOS and Android, has released on both iOS and Android in the US. Neither Nintendo nor Niantic (who also make Ingress) had said when it was going to happen, so the launch just… happened. I spent my lunch break wandering around Manhattan in 90 degree weather to test it out for y’all. The short version: highly recommend. But the long version sees some pros and cons, expected and unexpected.

The Premise of Pokémon Go

You are a Pokémon trainer and a brand new professor, Professor Willow (who some seem to think is steamy), has asked you to carry around a Pokédex and to occasionally transfer some Pokémon to him for study. Same deal, different tree person. You even start by catching one of the traditional three (Squirtle 5ever for me). What’s incredibly different is the Pokémon show up in our world. I caught the Squirtle standing on my laptop’s keyboard, for example. You also gain Pokéballs by stopping at real landmarks and public art, a lot like Ingress. If you get an egg, you can use an incubator to hatch it after you walk a certain number of steps. There’s no Pokécenters and you have to use potions and revives to heal up your Pokémon after battle. And! Battling at the gyms are very different. When you get to level five, you join a team and teams battle for control over gyms. That part is more like Ingress than Pokémon. Here’s the trailer:

Pros

As soon as I plugged my earbuds in, the music started and I was in nostalgia central. Having riffs on the Pokémon music I grew up with piped into my ears as I walked around was incredibly satisfying. The map is bright, happy and easy to read, and a lot of the actions one takes in the game are extremely intuitive. For instance, when you hit a Pokéstop, you spin a little medallion to collect items from it. I didn’t notice the instructions telling me what to do, I just did it.

Seeing Pokémon appear in our word is delightful! I got a weird bodily happy high from it that I wasn’t expecting. Aside from my wishes about Harry Potter (still ongoing), the piece of fiction that I wanted to come to life was Pokémon, and the fact that this game exists makes me feel really normal about that. Other people definitely wished their hardest for it, too, and they built this. Flicking the Pokéball at the little dancing, flipping Pokémon is also really satisfying. It makes you feel like you have some control over whether you catch it, which is a pro over the original games, even.

For me, personally, Pokémon is one of the greatest concepts out there because I’m a huge fan of collection games. I like building a collection, checking all the boxes, seeing progress. It’s for this reason that I’m likely to enjoy this game more than other augmented reality games like Ingress or even Zombies Run.

Cons

I am literally watching my phone battery tick down as I type this. Yeah, I get it. It uses live location services to serve the map and all the Pokémon are based on the surrounding terrain. Leaving location services on all the time takes a certain amount of battery power. When you’re using the augmented reality feature to capture Pokémon, that uses your camera. And yeah, that uses battery too. The things that make the game cool are inherently powerhogs. There’s a certain amount that we have to just live with, but it’s still a huge con. If I need my phone to last all day, there’s no way I’m bringing out Pokémon Go just to capture a Doduo in the park. There’s supposed to be a wearable wristband that helps with that, but it’s currently unavailable.

Another massive con for me is the gym play. I want it to be a lot more like Pokémon’s original gym, where you assemble a team and battle a trainer and are awarded a badge. THINK OF HOW COOL THAT WOULD BE! A location-based badge, maybe each different country (or even State) has a different color? I get it, it’d be so difficult to implement. Having players take over gyms makes it easier. Doesn’t mean it’s not a con for me.

While avatar selection seems as divorced from gender as it can get (they ask you to pick your style, not your gender), the art on the selections seems pretty binary. I chose the more masculine one, because I’m a person who tries to make avatars look like me most of the time. Brown hair, brown eyes. That kind of thing.

And last, the wide release is really buggy. Once you’re in the game, you’re fine. But occasionally the server seems to be really overwhelmed. I almost feel sorry for it. And when the server is overwhelmed, it kicks me out and I have to sign in again, which is truly annoying. Good news is Niantic is aware of the issues and is fixing to fix them.

So. Are you trying to catch ’em all?


Opportunities Corner

The Third Annual White House LGBTQ Tech and Innovation Fellowship nomination form is live! From the form:

The White House Office of Public Engagement & Office of Science and Technology Policy are looking for technologists, innovators and community leaders to participate in this year’s White House LGBTQ Tech & Innovation Summit on August 23rd, 2016.

Purpose //

The Summit will bring together over 200 of the most innovative and talented LGBTQ technology leaders to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges. We will spend the day learning about different issues and breaking out into teams to come up with ways to solve specific problems facing America and the world. Potential challenges include: gun violence prevention, gender equity, big data and privacy, voting rights, the environment, tech inclusion, prison reform and energy.

Who Should Apply //

We encourage you to apply and nominate leaders using the form below. We are looking for a mix of technologists, including engineers, data scientists, designers, entrepreneurs, product and marketing specialists. Please note that all nominees should be LGBTQ, team players and outside the box thinkers.

Nominate yourself or others using the form ASAP!


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Geekery Editor for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

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48 Comments

  1. 0

    It’s not available in the UK yet *cries* Think it has staying power as a game, or it will it inevitably become one of those pay-to-play games that people get bored with once they can’t do things anymore because it’s too expensive or takes too long to wait for actions to be available? Also wonder how expensive that little wrist band is going to be.

  2. 0

    Pros and Cons for me you didn’t mention:
    Pro: The landmarks feature is so cool! I am learning so many random things about where I live! So many cool facts! It makes me get out and explore more! Tourist in my own living place!
    Pro: I need to emphasise how cool the virtual reality is. Pokemon on MY STREET. The ability to combine real life features with this game is still blowing my mind.
    Con: The requirement to be on your phone while out and about. Navigating people and cars and streets and things while playing a game that is designed to be playing while moving about is scary.

  3. 0

    It does seem tempting to play, but as someone who played Ingress daily for a month, this is tempting. With ingress I did find out some interesting info about spots I on the regular(and that won’t change since I’m still working and living in the same area). Hmmm

  4. 0

    I am so in love with this game and it’s not even out in Germany yet. I don’t want to illegally get it on my phone, because I’m worried about getting blocked. I work in IT and all the boys are going nuts. My girlfriend downloaded it for me on her Android phone (yeah, she’s a keeper) and we walked all over this morning. Now I’m alone at home and can’t keep Pokemon off my mind. They wanted to release it at the end of the week in Europe, but since the Servers are having a lot of problems, it might take a bit longer.
    Already looking for some cheap battery packs.
    Gotta catch ’em all 😀

  5. 0

    I don’t think it was really divorced from gender at all–they just used the more generic “pick your style” so they could use that same instruction throughout the avatar creating process. I was disappointed that some of the achievements have gendered names, so because I picked the more feminine avatar I get medals like “battle girl” and “punk girl.”

  6. 0

    Every day since it’s release over in NZ and Aus I’ve been checking the UK app store for it.. But now with all the server issues I’m sure they’ll be looking to sort those (or at least some of them) before they release in Europe. But I am so desperate to play! I beat the Elite Four and Champion on Pokemon X earlier this week and need a new challenge!

  7. 0

    Pro tip – if anyone wants a Pikachu starter, keep walking away from the other starter pokemon. After they re spawn 4/5 times, they come back with Pikachu. Hope the rest of you get the release soon. Happy gaming from Australia!

  8. 0

    “Same deal, different tree person.”

    I’ve never quite gotten why these Professors, who are supposedly Pokemon experts, need people (often kids) to go out and gather all their data for them. :p

    On a personal note, I like to start with the fire Pokemon. And apparently, the McDonalds up the road from my apartment complex is now a gym. Fun times!

  9. 0

    My only complaint is the Teams. In the Pokemon World, only villains join Teams. The whole point is that peace and tolerance triumph over crime and terrorism. In this Ingress-ish game, everyone has to join a Team bent on wiping out the other Teams, as if this is a post-Apocalyptic hellscape full of factions. Maybe that in itself wouldn’t be so bad, except this game entails meeting these people in person. Instead of sharing a love for the Pokemon franchise, there is already a lot of bitterness between people of different Teams. For instance, Team Valor’s message of strength and willpower seems to be attracting sexists.

    • 0

      I’m glad to hear someone discussing the team dynamics! I agree that they seem a bit off message compared to previous Pokémon narratives, and affect the dynamic of socializing with other players. Given that they’re hard to avoid as part of gameplay, though, do you or anyone else have suggestions as to what team is the most in line with the values/personalities of Autostraddlers? I’d love to be team buddies with folks from here.

      • 0

        I’m on the Blue/Mystic Team but I haven’t seen too much aggression where I’m at from different factions. I joined Blue mostly because I was torn between Blue and Yellow but I liked the Blue description more (plus I was 100% sure that my partner whose favorite color is blue would choose Blue and I wanted to be on the same team) From what I understand Team Yellow/Instinct has the fewest members and Blue and Red are larger groups, so you might have a harder time running gyms as a Yellow member unless you’ve got a lot of Yellow people in your area.

        If you have friends that are playing it near you and you’re one of the first people in your group to reach level 5 you can always choose your team and then encourage your friends to just join whichever you chose! It’s more about that inter-team camaraderie than necessarily fighting other teams I think, but I’m sure plenty of people are taking it to extremes lol.

        • 0

          Those are good points. Yes, Team Instinct is the least popular, but you’ll only be fighting for control in your local Gyms, so the popularity of Teams locally is more important. The Gyms in my town have all been run by Team Instinct ever since the game came out.

    • 0

      Interesting, haven’t run into this at all myself. My girlfriend and I (Team Valor) have chatted with cashiers checking our stuff out, straight couples on the street, dudes and their dogs, etc. The team dynamic hasn’t seemed to be a big issues. People we’ve met have joked about different sides, but still been really friendly.

      • 0

        I think maybe it’s preteens/teens who are all territorial about their Team. So far, my only bad experiences were around preteens who hang out at Gym locations. I dress up as Jessie from Team Rocket when I play and people my age are always telling me how awesome I look. I’m not on any Team yet, but Team Instinct members seem very friendly.

    • 0

      I have seen some bad team dynamics, mostly on the internet. Lots of really unsporting memes and bad attitudes. I’ve seen it spill over IRL as well. There was an incident in DC where some Team Mystic people put graffiti on a landmark. Really terrible behavior. People from Mystic, Instict, and Valor came together to clean it up, which is a nice resolution, but it really should not have happened in the first place.

      • 0

        I hope it’s just one of those things where they were already vandalizers anyway and used the game as an excuse. Disgusting. I joined Valor (because it reminds me of Team Rocket) and based on memes on Tumblr and Facebook, I anticipated potentially facing real world hate, which really shouldn’t be a concern in the first place, especially for a non-violent game like this. No negativity towards me yet though. I’ve also seen plenty of memes about the Teams being in harmony, because in the anime, Lugia’s song keeps Moltres, Zapados, and Articuno from fighting and destruction, and instead the four bring harmony and peace to the Kanto Region.

  10. 0

    If yall want the Niantic style, landmark/location based trivia and pop-up info in your daily life, they also make an app called Field Trip that I like. Not interactive, but informative and interesting!

  11. 0

    Honestly Pokemon Go is probably going to help a lot of people with depression because instead of staying inside and laying in bed all day it encourages getting up and going outside and exploring and interacting with people.
    I’ve been really low key depressed the last couple weeks but this game got me outside yesterday and I went for a really nice walk all the way to the library where I got a library card and checked out a book about The X-Files and an awesome YA novel about a black bi ballerina with ednos. Today a friend of mine (who’s also been low key depressed lately) came over and we just ran around the whole neighborhood catching pokemon and it felt really good to catch the same ones at the same time and check in at the same points and run into other people playing the game too. It’s fun and it’s healthy and it’s been really helping me try to remember this week that the world is not all dark all the time. There’s still lots of good things and lots of good people in the world.

    • 0

      also RE: the battery draining–

      Even the draining my phone part isn’t so bad in that regard as long as you bring a charger with you–I stopped at the library because I knew they would have outlets to charge my phone, and while I was waiting for that I stopped to read for a while and checked out all those books. I’ve been meaning to go to that library ALL SUMMER and never bothered. Today I walked over to a coffee shop that I knew was next to a pokestop, recharged for a bit, then walked back home. As long as you have somewhere to recharge, the rest parts still feel really good too.

      BUT also: Amazon sells really cheap solar chargers too! I got one for my birthday and even though I haven’t tested it out on Pokemon walks yet, that might be a helpful way to make sure that you’re staying charged up while going pokemon hunting. The app does drain your phone pretty hard, so you probably won’t *gain* too much battery life if you’re charging and running it at the same time, but you’ll at least stay pretty stable on battery life.

  12. 0

    I’m into this! I’ve been playing since Wednesday. I have walked so much since then. I have multiple days where I’m over 10k steps walked on my Fitbit. Over the weekend I saw so many people playing Pokemon in public. I was at the park and like easily 50+ people were there catching Pokemon. It’s amazing!

    The downside to Pokemon GO is that unfortunately issues of race and existing in public are magnified with this game. For instance, here is an account of playing Pokemon GO from a black man. 🙁 So yeah, people who are able to play Pokemon GO safely definitely have privilege that others do not have.

  13. 0

    I’m currently in residence at a national park and everyone is talking about this. It’s very problematic as some of these things you find have been put in places that are dangerous to access or ecologically sensitive. This game encourages people to go trampling about without any concern for where they are, where they’re going or what they’re stepping on. I’ve also heard that they’ve been put in places that are wildly inappropriate such as a gassy creature at the holocaust museum. Seriously? It seems to me the company that’s produced this game has been extremely cavalier about its impact on the places it now “occupies” – I for one hope it fades as quickly as its appeared or, failing that, gets some serious pushback… a city park is one thing, but a national park or wilderness or historic site? a national battlefield? that’s no place for a game.

    • 0

      Most of the sites are from historic registers. The point is to discover your local landmarks and visit those museums you never got around to visiting. I think it’s great, but Nintendo and Niantic are slow on allowing sites to opt out. As for the Koffing, I think most of the monsters are ramdomized except when a player is in a certain types of places (ex. by bodies of water, there are Water Pokemon). I’m sure it wasn’t intentional.

      • 0

        I understand your point. But sites should not be forced to participate under the burden of then opting out once it’s a problem. It should be incumbent on the company to gain permission from a site prior to populating it. Many sites are already operating within tight constraints and sensitive conditions- it should be their prerogative to evaluate whether this game is something they want on their premises. Again, for many places it may be fine, even desirable to attract new visitors, but for some it’s really not. The whole thing just strikes me as really unconsidered and invasive.

    • 0

      The way I understand it is that the creatures spawn according to a program that looks at what type of terrain, climate, urban density, etc. is in the area, so these are all factors in what creatures appear and where. The Pokemon aren’t placed there by the developers themselves, so they were probably not even aware of this (at least not until the news articles came out). They should definitely consider tweaking their program to either eliminate creatures spawning in culturally/ecologically sensitive areas.

      Another factor is that many of these locations have been pre-populated as landmarks in Google Maps. They haven’t been added manually to the game. So whatever was in Google Maps and the developer’s previous game, Ingress, is what has been pre-populated in Pokemon GO. Some of these places are potentially inappropriate or questionable for a general-audiences game (according to some people) and an IP that is marketed to kids, such as marking sex shops or other locations as Pokestops/Gyms.

      So yeah–I agree with you. Some places should not be Gyms or Pokestops for cultural or environmental reasons, and they should consider eliminating Pokemon spawn points at those places as well.

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