A little over two years ago, Google pulled one of its usual April Fool’s jokes with a trailer announcing a new Google Maps feature: Pokemon Challenge. In it, intrepid trainers could attempt to catch Pokemon in real life, with types corresponding to where the user was in the world. Everyone who saw the fake trailer laughed and moved on. Except for Google and Pokemon.
Fast forward to today where Pokemon GO has officially been launched in North America, and people are already going bananas. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, it follows the same general idea as all of the handheld games released in the last 20 years: Find Pokemon, catch Pokemon, be a Pokemon master. However, there is no being whisked away to enchanting places like the Kanto or Johto region, as the game relies on your exact placement in the world. Specific Pokemon correspond with the geography of the area you’re in. For example, after I started the game this morning and chose my starter (Charmander, obviously), I walked to work to see what I could come across. While walking through Musser Park, I encountered a Paras. I froze in place in an attempt to catch the grass-type. At that very moment, a man in his mid-20s stopped a few yards away, also pointed in the direction of the parasite. “Oh my God,” I thought to myself. “Is my first experience with this game going to be taking a Pokemon right out from another trainer’s nose?” Whether or not the gentleman was playing or not, the Paras was mine. As a tribute to my most favorite hilariously-lame NPC of the original games, I christened myself with the username “BugCatcherBoi.”
— Central Park (@CentralParkNYC) July 7, 2016
One of the central differences between Pokemon GO and any of the handheld games is that when you encounter a wild Pokemon, you don’t send out your own to battle it, you merely throw a Pokeball at its head.
I decided to take an hour or so and see what sort of environment the heart of Lancaster City might hold.
As a Pokemon fan from back in the day, I knew certain things would seemingly always ring true. Namely that in the games, “big” cities are not the place to catch ’em all. I started on the top floor of the parking garage, hoping that a wide open space would net me something. It didn’t take long for a wild Rattata to cross my path. This is where the glitching began. Directly after I beaned it in the head with a Pokeball, this happened:
Holy $hit! Never have I been so terrified by such a beginner Pokemon. The game then froze and booted me off of its server (users have been tweeting this image all day). I decided if I wanted to catch something big, I’d want to use incense. Another difference of the game, you can use incense to attract Pokemon for 30 minutes, supposedly making them easier to catch. I say “supposed” because, outside of a chance encounter with a Pidgey on the sidewalk of Orange Street, I found nothing for the rest of my time outside.
However, despite being drenched in sweat, I soldiered on, stopping near gyms by Rita’s off of King Street and another by a corner store on Lemon and Queen. You can battle gym leaders for supremacy once you get to level 5, but alas, I am only at level 2.
One of the more endearing points of the game is to getting people up off the couch and investigating their surroundings in the form of landmarks that riddle the map that can provide you with items. Of course, Lancaster is an incredibly historic city, so landmarks are very easy to come by. Here’s just a few of the ones I encountered.
Now, as far as immediate negatives go, there’s one big multi-faceted one: the use of your phone itself. I played with a Galaxy S5, which is older, but not ancient. Despite this, my 100% not only drained to 69% in the hour I was outside, but I also got multiple warnings about my phone overheating. Of course, it was 94 degrees outside and my button-down and jeans-clad self was also in danger of over-heating, but a trainer’s journey is a perilous one.
Speaking of peril, the game involves you, walking with your phone while the screen is on the entire time. I personally loathe people who can’t walk down the street without being on their phones, but here I was doing the same damn thing, except I was in the pursuit of Pocket Monsters. Angry looks and thousand-yard stares followed me at basically every intersection and major sidewalk, but I couldn’t be bothered. According to the map, I had an Abra, Venonat AND a Pidgeotto nearby.
As the game spreads throughout the world, I can’t wait to see where certain Pokemon show up. Where will legendary birds like Zapdos and Articuno be hiding? Is Mew hidden in an ancient temple somewhere? This is a game that will take months to fully reveal the depths of itself, and I can’t wait to keep looking. As far as Lancaster goes, you might have better luck in more rural areas than the city proper. After all, just like in the original games, if you go walking in tall grass long enough, you’re sure to hear…
Pokemon GO is now available for Android and Apple devices.