As I’ve mentioned before (once, twice), I have a complicated history with Pokémon Go. The TL;DR version is that I didn’t grow up with Pokémon , and I didn’t get into Pokémon Go when the game was first released in mid-2016, but last summer I started playing while hanging out with a friend who was playing, and I was pretty much instantly hooked.
Last weekend, a different friend invited me to hang out and find some raid battles. We drove around downtown Sacramento looking to see where the raid bosses were, while checking a Pokémon group on Discord to see who else was out raiding. (For my un-Pokémonned readers: a raid battle is where multiple players gather in the same real-life location to battle a powerful Pokémon, and after the battle each player gets a chance to catch a Pokémon of the species they just battled.) I haven’t done a lot of raid battles, since I’m usually playing alone. I’ve won three raid battles of fairly low strength raid bosses alone, and each time I was able to catch the guy after the battle. But I hadn’t gotten together before with other players to take down a powerful boss, like my friend and I were planning on doing.
Eventually, someone on Discord said that there were six “accounts” waiting at a certain nearby location, and that they wanted at least nine to go into battle. Poor, naive me. I’m a n00b. By six “accounts,” I assumed that this meant that there were six people, each signed in to their Pokémon Go account from their phone, ready to battle this raid boss. I was wrong.
When we got there, there was one guy sitting at a table with four phones and tablets in front of him. He was playing four games of Pokémon Go simultaneously. (I think the rest of the people in the battle were only playing one each.) When the battle started, I asked him if I should be trying to dodge the raid boss’ attacks, as I would do with a regular non-raid battle. He said sure, if I can, but he couldn’t dodge the attacks since he was frantically tapping on four devices simultaneously with different fingers and hands.
We lost the first time, but we tried again and won, and I caught the boss. After that, all of us decided to look for another raid battle. Instead of walking around like the game designers intended, the guy who had the four accounts went to this other third-party site (i.e., not part of the actual Pokémon Go game) and pulled up a map of all the raid battles currently happening. As he was trying to explain to us what this site is, one of the other players who came to this raid battle started telling about this other third-party site where you can figure out exactly how to know all of your Pokémon’s detailed statistics and how to tell if the one you caught is the most powerful possible. I couldn’t really hear what was going on.
We found a second raid battle about a mile away… interestingly enough, it was in the middle of a cemetery. We won, nothing special happened there. Then, as we got to the bonus round where we try to catch the raid boss, someone bumped into me from behind and made me drop one of my Poké Balls. The guy who was talking about how to know all of your Pokémon’s detailed statistics started going on and on about that again, repeating everything he had said before about three or four more times, and with all the noise, I couldn’t time my throws properly. I didn’t catch it, and I was probably a bit more visibly annoyed than I needed to be.
This is the kind of situation that makes me feel like I can’t call myself a gamer anymore. In my childhood and teen years, video games were simple little distractions. I could get home from school and spend about half an hour playing Super Mario Bros. or Tetris, then put it aside and move on with my life, still leaving me plenty of time to eat dinner, do homework, and watch The Simpsons or Full House or Home Improvement or Roseanne or whatever show my family was watching that night of the week. That isn’t true with modern video games. In order to be a true gamer today, it seems that one would have to immerse their entire life in the world of the game, spending hours each day on their quests and battles and, often, paying a subscription fee or paying extra for features not available to all players (in my Pokémon example, that would be the four tablets that the one guy had, in addition to the various optional in-game purchases that can be made). Back in the day, I didn’t have to use some third party service to tell me the statistics of every Koopa Troopa that Mario stomped on, and I didn’t have to play four games of Tetris simultaneously in order to increase my chance of getting a long straight block. And I just don’t have the time required to immerse myself in modern video games. I have a demanding career, and I value other aspects of the real world too much as well.
People like the Pokémon players I met take the fun out of video games for me. It is really unfortunate. I know that not all games are like that and not all players are like that. And I guess I just have to find ways to make video games fun and enjoyable for me. That’s probably why I still like a lot of retro video games.