Pokémon Go

May as well fess up. The game I’ve been playing the most over the last year is easily Pokémon Go. Yes, that’s right, I can hear you guffawing in the back, but let me explain.

PoGo is a game that several of my friends and I enjoy. The gameplay loop is basic: catch pokémon, upgrade them with stardust and candy, repeat. Everything after that is up to the player. Maybe you’ll optimize a team for PvP (largely game theorizing weaknesses/resistances along 18 dimensions plus adding an unexpected secondary charged move), work on completing your pokédex (involves trading with others as several pokémon are region locked), collect shinies or level 1 pokémon, raid for legendaries, or decide to own every local gym, etc.

For the first year it was out, there wasn’t much to do. In fact, I got bored and put the game aside. However, I was drawn back in by Community Days, a ~3 hour time period, generally once a month on the weekend, where a featured pokémon spawns abundantly. There are usually several other boosts as well: accelerated egg hatching, bonus stardust, extra candy, higher chance of shinies, longer duration lures, etc.

On Community Day, I can count on gaming with one other friend and usually two or three more. We’ll meet up at various local spots (indoor or outdoor malls work well, as do universities) and spend the time walking around, chatting, and playing alongside dozens of other groups doing the same thing. Sometimes we’ll play a boardgame after (we are in the middle of a Betrayal Legacy campaign).

Heck, I went with a friend to Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago earlier this year. We had a great time! They had a special research quest setup that led to Jirachi and it was enjoyable to do.

Over this past weekend, me and 3 friends met up and did our thing. Besides catching dozens of Ralts (the featured pokémon) and hoping for shinies (everyone got at least 3 or 4), we found 3 Rayquaza raids (current legendary raid boss), battled Team Rocket a half dozen or more times, and ate dinner afterwards. Ralts has two different evolutions depending on whether it is male of female (male Kirlia evolves to Gallade and female Kirlia evolves to Gardevoir) so we make sure we had at least one of each for the Community Day special move (Synchronoise).

Niantic has been active adding content and features over the last 2 years. This is what I remember being added since that rather slow/dull first year, and I probably left something out:

  • Revamped Gym battle (motivation, max 6 different pokémon)
  • Revamped coin collection (1 coin every 10 min holding a gym, max 50 a day)
  • Revamped appraisal system (QoL improvement)
  • Raids, 1 star to 5 start (Legendary), EX raids
  • Legendary lunch hour, Legendary dinner hour
  • Near continuous special events
  • Trading pokémon
  • Buddy pokémon
  • Shiny pokémon, Shadow pokémon, Purified pokémon
  • Berry types: nanab, pinab, silver
  • Charged and Fast TMs
  • Rare Candy
  • Evolution items (sun stone, king’s rock, metal coat, dragon scale, up-grade, sinnoh stone)
  • Sending postcards from locations, open for gifts containing random items
  • Eggs and incubators, Alolan eggs to hatch Alonan forms
  • Adventure Sync (step counter from phone that counts distance towards hatching eggs)
  • Adventure Sync rewards (eggs for hitting 25K and 50K walking milestones each week)
  • Field Research (daily tasks to complete for a weekly encounter)
  • Special Research (multi-stage quest for pokémon, mythical or unique, or tons of xp)
  • PvP (fight other players or the AI)
  • Team Rocket (fight AI, series of 3 progressively harder fights), catch shadow pokémon with the option to purify for boosts
  • Community Day, special move for evolving during the time window
  • Mystery Box (meltan spawns, trade Gen 1 Pokémon to Pokémon Let’s Go games in exchange)
  • And of course, more generations of pokémon

Many of the special events boil down to having a set of pokémon spawn in higher numbers, or legendary raid bosses available, etc.

Monetization is what you would expect from a free-to-play game: microtranactions for stuff like cosmetic outfits. The store also sells various doodads to boost gameplay: lures to attract pokémon, incubators for hatching eggs, star pieces to boost stardust, raid passes for entering raids, lucky eggs to boost xp, and pokéballs. You get one infinite incubator, a free raid pass every day, and by minimally playing and spinning pokéstops, you should be overflowing in pokéballs if you are in any kind of populated area. Lures are moochable – someone else using a lure will let you benefit, which is key for the 3 latest ones introduced (magnetic, grass, and ice lures).

By holding gyms you can earn up to 50 coins a day.

I spend about $10 a month on stuff, usually by purchasing a special box of items that shows up around Community Day. All I can say is this is fine for me, it doesn’t feel exploitative and if you were really on a budget you can get by as a free-only player.

Obviously, PoGo doesn’t exactly fill the MMO niche. But it is a game I enjoy playing with friends, a large component of which is the social aspect of hanging out in person. PoGo plays anywhere and in short ~5 minute increments if need be. The best multiplayer game is the one your real life friends also enjoy playing. And that game happens to be Pokémon Go for my group!

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