Everyone ever has been playing Pokemon Go the last few days. That is, everyone but the suckers who let the rumours of unofficial downloaders being banned get to their heads. I, regrettably, am one of those few suckers.
We’re the late-to-the-lab Ash Ketchums in a world of Gary Oaks: while everyone is starting their new lives as Pokemon trainers, we’re still in our pajamas with no starter and no hope.
But hey, misery loves company. Maybe you’ll find relief in hearing the sad tale of my week without Pokemon like how Ash found a friend in a grumpy, leftover Pikachu. I can be the chubby electric mouse to share your sadness with.
Let me be your Pikachu.
Pokemon GO launches on Android and iOS Devices. To understand the importance of this landmark day, we first need to rewind to 2002. An eight year old Corey van den Hoogenband is biking through his neighbourhood throwing tennis balls at thin air, shouting, “It’s Scyther! I’ve gotta catch Scyther!” All around, neighbours are retreating indoors in confusion and fear. “Get inside, honey,” they must be saying. “The Hoogenband boy is playing Pokeman again…”
You see, in my day – well, in most of our days; I assume anyone reading this is from a similar age bracket to me – kids didn’t have smart phones with fancy AR technology. Imagination was our augmented reality, and if I wanted to see a Pokemon out in the real world, I had better imagine the shit out of it.
So I did. But with every
tennis ball pokeball I threw, I dreamed of the day that technology would catch up to the misadventures in my head. And on July 6th, that day arrived! On Android, at least, and only in the U.S. “Oh well,” I shrug, “I’m sure the Canadian iPhone launch is just around the corner!”
Less than 24 hours later and people outside of the U.S. and other launch countries have found ways to download Pokemon Go. “I got it!” my coworker exclaims. In a retro game store in downtown Toronto, the first of many real world Pokemon trainers enters my life. Coworkers and customers alike gather around Jess’ phone like a herd of Tauros.
It looks simple. Lacking, even. Her avatar is running in circles even though she’s standing still, and every other attempt to throw a pokeball causes the app to freeze. And yet, it’s glorious. Look at that Bulbasaur! Ha! What’s he doing sitting on our cash register!? This app is everything I’ve ever wanted and more wrapped up in a pretty, data crunching, battery draining bow.
“You can download it, too!” Jess tells me. According to the internet, all it takes on iOS is a quick second to register an Australian appleID, and you’re in. “I don’t know, I should probably wait for the official release. I bet it’ll be out tomorrow anyways,” I say.
How wrong I was.
Despite the fact nobody in this country should be playing Pokemon Go, pokemania is in full force. At work, we’re playing the Pokemon theme songs for store music, riding the wave like a surfing Pikachu. At home, movie night is interrupted when my roommates leave to chase an Eevee down the street.
It’s not all bad, though. I have one fellow holdout on staff who also doesn’t want to risk being banned. It’s her and I against the world: thank goodness there’s no battling in Pokemon Go, because boy are we outnumbered.
Pokemon Go goes where I go. I should just download it. But my conscience (or cowardice) convinces me otherwise. In my room, I bust out my 3DS and load up a digital download of Pokemon Yellow. “This’ll do,” I tell myself. “Can’t beat a classic!”
I am lying. Turns out that yes, you can in fact beat a classic. An 8-bit Pikachu won’t do – not when there’s an AR version poking its head out of a gutter somewhere in Toronto.
I ask my roommates to take me with them on a Pokewalk. First hand, I learn the ways of a Pokemon trainer: grace; elegance; tapping; a lot of tapping; Boy, do you ever tap a lot in this game. Is that the only way to fight?
“If you hold it down, you do a special,” I’m told.
“Ha, that’s lame!” I try to play it off like I’m the cool one, but in my heart, jealousy burns with the heat of 100 Moltres.
My one fellow holdout at work has betrayed me. “I got it!” she joyfully confesses.
“How could you?” I ask, defeated, angry, broken.
Still I keep waiting. Official release must be so close, and I don’t want to get banned. Not like this. I’m better than this…aren’t I?
There was a Vaporeon in our store. My manager just caught a Vaporeon. My manager, for Arceus’ sake. This is it – I’m downloading it tonight, I don’t care anymore. Ban me if you will, Niantic, no punishment could be worse than the hell I’m already living.
I get a bogus Australian appleID off a colleague and like that, it’s Go time. I feel trepidation, but I think about what eight year old Corey would say if he saw the coward I have become. Shaking his little head, throwing his tennis balls, he’d say:
“…Get Scyther. We’ve GOT to catch Scyther.”
Scyther IS pretty cool, isn’t he?
So I download the game and wouldn’t you know it? I can’t go ten seconds without it freezing. I meet a friend at a PokeStop and she tells me that hers never crashes this much.
This must be a cruel joke. Is this what I get for writing that dumb ‘Digimon is better than Pokemon’ listicle last month? I’d take it all back, every last word, for a chance bask in the glory of Pokemon Go; to run free with the Scythers. Even though Pokemon Go is now out in Canada*, I’ll never catch up to the trainers who were out catching them all during the most painful week of life. I’ll never be…the very best.
*Editor’s Note: Pokemon Go officially launched in Canada while this article was being edited. You bet your Laprass Corey will be promptly reinstalling this game, but he’ll be weeks behind all of his friends and coworkers.