What I Learnt From : A Year Of Pokemon Go

Today marks one year since the launch of Pokémon Go.  Strictly speaking, it was launched here in the UK App Store a little bit later than that, but I couldn’t wait so was one of the ones to create an American iTunes account for the purpose of downloading.

The app recently passed 752 million downloads and has generated over $1.2bn in revenue.  Apptopia is also reporting that about 60 million players logged on during June, with 20 percent of them opening the game at least once a day.

That makes it pretty popular, and it’s rare for an app that isn’t a social network keeps my attention for so long.  I’ve got most of my medals and accumulated 7542587XP at the time of writing to get me to level 36 out of 40.  I’ll log in a couple of times a day and I’ll usually have the app running on my Apple watch to hatch eggs while I’m walking round the office.

So what have I learnt from a year of chasing virtual pocket monsters inside my phone?

Attachment Issues

You’ve nurtured and loved your Tangela since if first burst out of its little egg all those months ago.  It’s adorable.  But then you realise that it’s not as good as your Victreebel or your Vileplume when taking on a Vaporeon or Rhydon and you’re running out of storage space.  Time to go? Probably, but it’s just so hard to send him to Professor Willow.  It’s the age old difficulty of practicality over sentimentality.

More Attachment Issues

For every Pokemon you catch you get stardust and candy that you can put towards evolving and powering up your monsters.  My mate’s kids spend the candy and stardust as soon as they possibly can.  I hold on to mine because, well, what if there’s something better to use them on in a few days?  I spent ages walking a Chansey to power up a beast of a Blissey.  The game update came in June and put my hard work to waste.  Point proven.

The mantra I’ve seen, though, is to always play the game as it stands now rather than as it might be in an unpredictable future.

Change Management

When the gym change happened in June, I realised that I’d been set in a 21 hour cycle, knew what I was doing and quite enjoyed it.  Then it all began to change and I didn’t know a lot about what was going to happen and it takes a while to move from the “but I was happy with how things were” to being excited about the new way of playing.

The “Events” that started with the Halloween effort in 2016 also serve as a reminder that even something seemingly small and insignificant can refresh motivation for something.  Changing which Pokemon spawn more regularly than others add a new aspect, even if just for a few days.  “A change is as good as a rest,” as they say.

Be The Best

People will do whatever it takes to win.  Spoofers, bots and mutli-account players all exist with a motivation that they need to be the best at something, playing to a level where the rewards for their endeavours become somewhat meaningless.  The only reasons for the cheating is competition with other cheaters or ruining things for other players.

But on the flip side, it’s possible to reach a stage where you do still want to keep getting better.  At level 25 I decided I wanted to be level 30 and then I wouldn’t care so much.  Now I’m level 36 and really want to be 37 because of the challenge of getting there.  I can realise that this is a game that I enjoy in the now without the need to constantly be looking for the next challenge, but you always have one eye on reaching the next milestone.

Mechanics

I seem to have as much fun working out how things work rather than just using them.  Learning about the game mechanics, the formulas, the match ups based on strengths and weaknesses all indulges my love of analysis and spreadsheets and building things.  Not only that, but I found it interesting how, during the gym rework I mentioned earlier, it took over 12 hours to remove all the Pokemon from gyms.  Makes you realise just how big that database must be.

When the game first started, I didn’t realise what was a good Pokémon and what was a bad one.  I created a spreadsheet with a graph comparing stats before I found formulas and individual values and damage mechanics.  Understanding how things work is important in making good decisions.


So, there you go – an app with some interesting reflections on behaviour.  Ooh, another Pidgey…

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