Thursday, August 20, 2020

Pokemon Go Still Awkward If You Don't Live On Top of Pokestops

I am currently revisiting Pokemon Go, which I played briefly during its period of launch hype in 2016. Playing the game in Suburbia during a pandemic is in some ways more awkward than playing it from the middle of nowhere back at launch.

I recently showed my kids the random Jurassic World AR feature that Google offers and it occurred to me that there is an app that can do this same trick with Pokemon. The catch being that I would first need to actually catch the Pokemon in question - my account had a starter Pikachu, a Vaporeon that I was fortunate enough to catch on a park outing sometime, and a bunch of random Pidgey's, Rattata, Caterpies, and similar low level filler.  

The gameplay loop remains weird if you are trying to play without multiple Pokestops/Gyms in walking distance. (The most common Pokestops in my neighborhood are at churches that are temporarily shuttered due to coronavirus, which feel like a disrespectful place to be hanging out in the parking lot if you don't even go to that church. The local parks are too crowded to feel safe in right now, so my best "route" is driving between the local post office and Subway and hoping that none of the employees think I'm stalking them.)   

  • If you're just passing through, you can tag each Pokestop once for maybe a few Pokeballs - not necessarily enough to catch a single Pokemon. 
  • If you hang out at a Pokestop your inventory fills up with potions and gifts while you continue to find monsters to throw balls at as fast as you loot them. 
  • If you try to buy more balls with real money, that fails because your inventory is full of potions and gifts so you need to trash them and/or buy more inventory slots first. 
  • (Alternately, if you went into lockdown with a well-built roster but no access to Pokestops you will run out of the potions I am trashing and may be yelling at your screen as you read this. I suppose you have to exactly balance the amount of PVE, PVP, and Pokestop visits you do to keep your supplies coming in at exactly the rate you are using them?)
Also, regular balls (most of what I'm getting from stops, also the only ones you can buy for real money) are reasonably likely to catch low combat power (loosely levels) Pokemon who you won't be able to advance unless you are able to catch large numbers of duplicates to obtain candy to use to level them.  My Vaporeon (1600+ CP) is doing okay since basic Eevee's are pretty common but my 16 CP Pikachu isn't going anywhere unless I start winning raids for rare candy (or more likely catch a new one and send my current one to the Professor for his unspecified experiments).  

The good news is that I've hunted down Charmander, Bulbasaur and Vulpix, so I'm getting close to having the kids' favorites for AR photos. This game is obviously for a very specific target audience who either live in or spend a lot of time walking through high density areas. All else equal, I'd rather be spending my time on a game that actually works where I live.  


  1. We live in a pretty densely populated area when it comes to gyms and Pokestops. None are within direct distance of our house, but a short drive gets us a few dozen options. (Odd how many are at churches, though I have no compunction about spinning those.)

    Inventory management is definitely a key aspect of the game. My wife and I get in gyms to earn coins, which I have used to expand my item inventory to 950 at this point. I still run out of space, but I have a lot more room to work with.

    Friends are a pretty big boon to getting items. You can exchange a gift with them daily. Also, friends can invite you to raids remotely thanks to the remote raid passes. My wife has a friend who will text her to get all of us in on a good raid.

    1. I assume Niantic did a mass ingest of churches from Google Maps at some point early on in Ingress. I've seen locations way too small and out of the way for any human to have spent time submitting them.

      I have no compunction with swiping a Pokestop if it can be done safely from a public sidewalk or road (if you are a passenger and can swipe it while stopped at a traffic light or whatever). If the developers' model for building the game was downtown San Francisco, this covers most if not all situations in that environment.

      In rural areas, sometimes the parking lot where you can safely stop if you are driving yourself is behind the building and out of view of the public street - and if you've never been there before you may not have any way of knowing this in advance. I happen to know that at my own church there has been vandalism and mail theft during the pandemic because the building is unoccupied and people are mailing in checks that they can't put in the offering plate in person. The church employee or volunteer reviewing the security camera footage has no way of knowing if I'm catching Pokemon or scouting for a future robbery.

      I spent money on Pokecoins to buy more Pokeballs with, which was how I found out that I wasn't allowed to buy the 200-ball package (at the lowest cost per ball) because of the inventory limit. I could spend more money to expand my inventory (currently 400) but, as you say, it will still fill up with things that I'm not currently using but that are too valuable to discard.

  2. It's still a game that plays a lot better in an urban area. However a lot of recent changes have made it much better to play in the boonies than it used to be. I moved from a high density area to the country recently, and I doubt I ever would have gotten going on the game if I had first tried it out here. For most of the first year I was here there was literally almost no reason to even start the game. Even using incense would only get me one pokemon every five minutes. Nothing at all would spawn in my yard otherwise, remote PvP and raiding weren't in the game yet, and there were no team rocket NPCs in hot air balloons following me around.

    1. At least the game now sends you a Pokemon per day to catch wherever you happen to be - like you I saw little reason to run the game in 2016 other than when we'd go into town or a park or somewhere that had people.

      I'll try the incense because it's yet another thing cluttering my inventory, but presumably this will only worsen the problem of where to get more Pokeballs.


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