It has been more than a year since Pokemon Go was launched, and I am still playing the game, better known as Pogo for Trainers. I have steadily rose through the levels, currently at level 34 (with the highest being 40).
If you are wondering, this is my pogo avatar, styled by Buddy, because this account is originally created for him.
Honestly, I have never stuck to a game this long, and in fact, you can even consider me being addicted to it. Last week, the game server was down for a few hours, and I started feeling jumpy, and kept checking the app if I could login. It’s like a drug addict ransacking the drawers for cocaine or even weed. (I can understand how a drug addict feels.) I remarked to a group of trainer friends that if the downtime was to take more than a day, I seriously had to check myself into rehab, otherwise I might turn crazy. One of them remarked, “we need Pogoholic Anonymous!” (But I doubt if any of us will sign up.)
Despite news reports on the contrary, the game has a lot of active Trainers, at least in Singapore. Sure there was some fatigue during the first half of this year despite the launch of generation 2 pokemons in February. But when Niantic (game developer) launched the reworked gym in June with the appearance of the raid bosses, that got Trainers excited again. (Raid boss is a powerful Pokemon which hatches from an egg that has taken over a gym or dojo for an hour and Trainers are encouraged to come together to battle it.) That also heralded the arrival of the legendaries in July, starting with the birds: Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, mascots of the 3 teams of Mystic (blue), Instinct (yellow) and Valor (red) respectively.
The birds have since left when September came, and we are now facing off the beasts: Raikou, Entei and Suicune (L-R).
Legendaries, by their status, are extremely rare and are mostly powerful Pokemons. They do not spawn in the wild unlike the ordinary ones, and instead they only hatch from raid eggs, i.e appear as raid bosses. The only way to capture them is to participate in the raids, or battles. Once Trainers defeat the boss in battle, we get to go to the bonus challenge of capturing it using special premier balls. Basically the whole raid thing is a little like a martial art or boxing fight.
The legendary frenzy has caused a big surge in interest among Trainers who have to come together to defeat them, because it is just not possible for a trainer to do it alone. They are spawned from tier 5 eggs, the highest as well as most difficult level. You need at least 6 high level Trainers with the right powerful counter mons to battle them (and even then it may be a close shave). This is in line with how Niantic has envisioned Pogo to be – a cooperation-based game, and the various gym reworks were geared towards making Trainers work together, although some changes have the opposite effect.
Still the raids, especially those for the legendaries, did produce the desired behaviours. Even among reticent Singaporeans, more are stepping out of their comfort zones to start organizing team-based groups to battle raid bosses. This is because the number of premier balls given depend on the damage your Pokémons inflicted on the boss, the number of fellow team members in the battle, as well as which team controls the gym (during the battle.) So the more same team members in battle, the more balls given, and so best to form same team battle group.
Though organizjng on the ground can also be as simple as getting enough people to battle the boss regardless of teams. Each day, trainers are given a raid pass to participate in a battle. Once you throw in the pass to enter the gym lobby, you cannot get it back even if you decide not to battle. This had happened to me when I raided a Tyranitar (tier 4) boss and was dismayed to find only 3 Trainers, me included, standing by for battle. Despite trying numerous times, we just couldn’t defeat the boss and my pass was wasted.
Though Niantic has recently tweaked the gym systems to allow Trainers to check the number in the lobby before committing the pass, it is still flawed – the number is inaccurate. Many times, the number shows only one when in fact there are several waiting inside lobby. So, this forces trainers to be proactive in interacting with each other. But it’s actually a good thing because it gets the Trainers to socialize with each other which is the purpose of the game.
Like last week, I rushed to a gym near my home for the Raikou raid, but realized many were already battling when I arrived. By the time I entered the lobby, there were only 2 of us waiting, which is a sure defeat. I noticed there were a couple standing nearby and asked them if they were raiding. Together, we rounded up a few more and managed to get 8 pax. It was a close shave since Raikou is a pretty tough Pokemon to take down, but luckily everyone used the correct counters.
As expected, I am part of the Pokemon Go Singapore community in Facebook, and that is a big source of entertainment and information for me. Anyone can put up posts in the group as long as they don’t go against the guidelines (at least in theory). And so there are posts from people who keep asking questions which had been answered countless times before (like “when is this legendary appearing in Singapore”). Then there are those who wanted to show off their Pokemon catches, like the number of legendaries caught; as well as the expected complaint kings and queens (Singapore being a complaint nation).
As mentioned earlier, certain gym reworks had caused the ire of Trainers. Previously, the gym system allows trainers to level up or train up their own gyms, from level 1 to 10, as well as attack opponent gyms. The higher the level, the more mons are placed in it. Every time you place a mon in gym, you get 10 pokecoins in the bag. The current system has done away with levelling and there are only 6 slots for Pokemon placement. So once the slots are taken by your own team, you cannot add in any and will have to look for opponent gyms. And when a trainer takes down an opponent gym, his/her selected mon is the first defender, which means an opponent will take down this mon first. Every 10 minutes spend in gym entitles to 10 pokecoins, but trainers can only get them in the bag when the mon is kicked out of the gym, and there are maximum of 50 coins a day. So there are a number of trainers who found ways around this. They create multiple pogo accounts of different teams, and use an opponent team account to battle first mon inside the gym, basically targeting only the first one. Once it is kicked out, there is an empty slot available and the trainer then log into the account of the team (that controls the gym) to place his or her mon into the gym. This is called “shaving”, and it has pissed off a lot of Trainers. It takes a lot of effort to take down the entire opponent gym, and yet the first defender is also the first to get shaved out, which is rather unfair. (Easier to target one than all 6 mons.)
Anyway, I have learned to live and let live, and not get worked up over things like this despite being addicted to pogo. It is important to enjoy the game as it is, and I have had lots of fun, and make new friends too. In fact it was because of the wasted raid pass from the Tyranitar raid that I came together with a couple of trainers, whom I got to know through FB, to form a WhatsApp group to battle the raid boss together. Within a few months, it has grown to a sizeable group, comprising of a mix of genders and teams, where most of us work in the CBD areas. Whoever can make it during lunch time or after work will meet up to raid Tyranitar boss or the legendary mons. I’m a little embarrassed to say I have been socializing with them more so than with other friends. Initially the chat was about game info and tips, and as we got comfortable with each other, we start sharing and venting about work, family, and health. There is no rivalry among the different team members and instead there are lots of encouragement.
Now, you may still wonder what’s the big deal about Pogo and why do I love the game so much? Well, my behavior has certainly changed because of it. After I had Buddy, I didn’t get to exercise as much as before, but because of Pogo I walk a lot more now, especially during lunch time. I have slowly learned to get out of my comfort zone and to interact with strangers. But, I do admit, because of Pogo, I’ve also neglected my passion in cheongsams, which I know I should get back to. I have to learn to balance my interest in both.