Pokémon GO doesn't have the complexity some gamers crave for deeply satisfying game-play, but it does have the in-person social aspect that many gaming platforms simply do not offer outside of tournaments. Perhaps some would have reservations with any gamer worth their salt considering Pokémon GO-ing "gaming". There are no addictive puzzles to solve, no mazes to navigate, no mysteries to unravel, no story arc or character backstory revelations to attach to. No, for the GO-er who’s unfamiliar with the universe of Pokémon, the premise of play truly seems to be to "catch ‘em all!"
I am someone who thoroughly enjoys a harrowing tale, fantasy, comic relief, romance, or some way for me to connect with fictional characters during game-play. I found myself originally only casually playing from a twist of the arm by my Teddiursa-loving daughter when Pokemon GO was launched. The game was a bland way to pass time and as a byproduct, I started shedding a few pounds as I aimlessly took to the city streets searching for Pokémon in the wild. An aspect of the game that I didn't initially expect (but have found to be an enjoyably pleasant surprise), was this real sense of geek-community.
People would drive past while we were out playing and call out their team-names. Or we would end up at a series of Pokéstops trying to catch a rare Pokémon that a chick rocking a Night Vale t-shirt had told us about a block earlier. It was a swirl of random and new faces of excited individuals all aiming their pokéballs in this loose and large community of misfits. It was just this effortless way to gently interact with other adults. Who, I may add, in my overall experience have mostly been intelligible and awesome individuals. With the commencement of raids, I had some hesitation over an important aspect of game-play (the ability to catch Legendaries or being able to catch final-evolution Pokémon quickly) being reliant on social interactions with strangers to build a raid-party. I found that unfair to those who might find themselves too shy or feel “socially inept." I didn't know enough people playing to be able to take on raid-bosses with just a group of friends, and wasn’t the sort of person who'll comfortably recruit people or walk up to strangers. Or at least I wasn't until a few weeks ago.
Somehow, that same aspect of early socialization in the game (a knowing nod to a stranger playing alongside you, etc) evolved into groups of 6-80+ players meeting up, coordinating teams, communicating, sharing catches, techniques, helping someone catch who’s totally frustrated (someone did this for me), caravanning to the next location, offering rides, talking on group messaging apps (be it Discord, Facebook Messenger, GroupMe or otherwise) to communicate rendezvous-points, countdowns all in this collaborative effort to take down a raid-boss. It’s a total social frenzy on the daily.
I never realized it would feel this relaxed and easy. I don't go to church. Don't play group sports. I haven't ever done many group activities, so for me, this is a first. It's something I've never had the opportunity to really experience. I'm surprised to say, I'm absolutely loving it! Buying a few dozen raid-passes a week sure beats baking something for a boring church potluck or other social event – plus no cleanup. I look forward to seeing certain people who share similar interests again and again. It seems that this surface-level flat interface has unlimited potential in expanding the friend-base of even the most socially awkward of us and it’s absolutely fantastic!
GO PLAY POKEMON GO!!!
P.S. I cannot wait to hear blossoming love-stories about couples meeting & getting to know one another slowly via Pokémon GO raid events!