pokemon

Exit 201. Bullet points and thoughts about the weekend.

I missed last week.  Sorry.

And I’m not sure what to write about this week.

But I had a great weekend.  So I’ll just share some bullet points and thoughts about the weekend.

Friday night, a friend went out for sushi and issued an open invitation.  Three of us plus her showed up.  My mom noticed that my friend had tagged me in a Facebook post and said that she didn’t know I liked sushi.  I don’t know when I tried sushi for the first time, but it was definitely in adulthood.  I probably would have thought the idea of sushi was disgusting as a kid, but it’s good to try new things, because sometimes you like them.

Saturday morning, I played Pokemon Go and helped some friends move.  I watched exactly none of the royal wedding.

Saturday night, I had people over for another one of my retro gaming parties.  It was a small crowd, only 10 of us, but we had fun.  Sometimes a small crowd is a good thing.  I feel more connected to everyone.

This morning, I went to my old church in Davis, because the youth pastor, under whom I volunteered in my early 20s, is leaving the church staff and changing careers after having been there for over two decades.  They had a reception for him after the service.  It was heartwarming and uplifting to hear so many stories about his work in youth ministry.  I shared about how, in addition to having such a heart for the young people of the community, he invested in the lives of the volunteer leaders the same way.  It was also inspiring for me to be greeted by so many old friends who are still at that church, and some who came just for that event as I did, almost 17 years after I moved away.

Then I came home and took a long nap, so I hope I’m able to fall asleep tonight.  If I’m not, I have plenty of cleaning to do to tire me out.

How were all of your weekends?

Exit 179. Poor, naive me. I’m a n00b.

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.

Exit 169. God was telling me to play Pokémon Go.

Yesterday, I hosted a friend’s birthday party at my house.  I am an introvert, of course, but I do enjoy hosting parties for others occasionally when I can.  I have this house, with realistically more room than I need, and doing things like this makes me feel like I can do something useful for my friends who have other living arrangements.

But I digress.  I’ve been very busy with work, and I haven’t been good at picking up around the house.  So I did a lot of straightening and cleaning yesterday morning.  By about 1:00 in the afternoon, I was tired and sweaty and in need of a shower, and I also needed a few things from the grocery store (not for the party specifically, just for my personal use, but as soon as possible).  I was debating whether to shower and go to the store, or just shower and nap, when another alternative popped into my head.

Don’t go to the store.  Don’t take a nap.  Don’t even shower yet.  Go for a walk to the park and catch some Pokémon.

I should qualify this by saying that I’m a n00b when it comes to Pokémon Go.  As I have written before, I was already in my 20s when Pokémon was first a thing, so I didn’t grow up with it.  I played for the first time two months ago, when a friend who moved away a few years ago was visiting her parents, about an hour drive from here.  I was trying to find a time to get together and catch up, and the only time that worked was when she was planning on going for a walk to play Pokémon, so she invited me along.

I had a six day streak going of having caught at least one Pokémon per day.  Most of that, however, most of that was just stopping next to the aforementioned park on the way home from work and catching one just to get a streak going, since if you can get up to seven days, you get a lot of experience points.  So I needed to catch something yesterday.  I also needed to get more balls, and there are lots of stops where you can get items all over this park.

Anyway, this park has soccer and baseball fields, so it is always full of youth sports families on Saturday mornings.  As I was getting near the park, I saw a mom and her friend loading up kids into a car after a game.  Her friend said hi to me.  I said hi back, as my mind frantically tried to remember who this person was; I don’t know any soccer moms that frequent this park off the top of my head.  (The kids belonged to her friend, not her, which also threw me a little.)   Fortunately, it came to me quickly so that the conversation was not awkward; it was someone from my old church, the one I stopped going to around two years ago.  I asked how she was doing, and she mentioned that next month she would be leaving on a mission trip to serve Jesus in other countries for a year.  She gave me the website where she would be blogging about her travels.

I hear many people tell stories about when God makes people cross paths at just the right time for a specific reason, and I think this was one of those moments.  I think God was telling me to play Pokémon Go yesterday morning, so I could be back in touch with my friend and reading and praying about her travels.  And in the middle of all the questions that have been running through my mind about Christianity and church culture and where I belong, this was a reminder that God is still here in the midst of all that.

And the part about me not having made it to the grocery store worked out too, because one of the other party guests called asking if we needed anything, and she agreed to bring me the two things I needed most urgently.  I forgot to pay her back, but this is someone I see often enough that I’ll take care of that soon, and it was probably no more than five dollars anyway.

Exit 115. Seriously, just stop arguing and have fun.

So apparently everyone is talking about Pokémon Go. Let’s establish some basics right away: First of all, I have never played Pokémon Go.  And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m not an expert, but from what I can gather from talking to friends and reading about it, Pokémon Go is a game for smartphones where you actually walk around and explore the real world trying to find Pokémon.  Pokémon are characters from a series of video games, collectible card games, movies, and the like; they are little monsters that you can train to battle other Pokémon, or something like that.  The name was shortened from “Poketto Monsuta,” which is the Japanese transliteration of the English phrase “pocket monsters.”

The entire world has pretty much taken sides on Pokémon Go; either you love it or you hate it.  And as with many things, I’m somewhere in the middle.

I haven’t played it yet for a variety of reasons.  There are other things I’d rather do with my time at this point, and when the school year starts, this will be even more true.  Also, a lot of the most hardcore players are twentysomethings who played the early Pokémon video games and/or the Pokémon collectible card game in their childhood, and this new game gives them an opportunity to reenact those games in reality.  The Pokémon craze of the late 1990s and early 2000s was a little after my time, as far as video games go.  I have a small amount of experience with the card game, but this came far later, in my mid-thirties, during the time that I was in a really bad long distance relationship.  Acrux had learned the Pokémon card game from the kids she regularly babysat, and she wanted me to get a starter deck and learn the game.  I did so on my next visit, and she excitedly pointed out that, since players don’t actually take cards from other players in this game, we could play over Skype after I got home.  And, in the fashion typical of how things went in this so-called relationship, she never mentioned it again, and she always came up with some excuse why she didn’t have time whenever I brought up that I wanted to play.  The one time I did successfully beg her to find some time to play Pokémon with me over Skype, we only played one game, and I beat her in about five minutes.  I then played against her best friend, who was also there at the time, and that game took much longer… so the whole point of finally getting to spend some time with Acrux completely didn’t happen.  Frequent other non-Pokémon-related instances of her blowing me off when I wanted to spend time together is pretty much why we broke up, although that’s another story entirely.  The point I’m trying to make is that, unlike many of my friends who play, I don’t have those pleasant childhood memories of Pokémon.

But I’m not going to sit here and say that the game is evil, or anything like that.  If you play Pokémon Go, and you still prioritize your time so that you can be an adult and take care of your responsibilities (or in the case of children, do your homework), then good for you.  I’m glad you’re enjoying it.  I’m glad you’re getting outside, seeing the world around you, and making friends.  There seems to be a segment of the population who believes that any adult who plays video games, regardless of the surrounding circumstances, is inherently immature, childish, and irresponsible.  As much as I don’t always like to admit it, the world has changed, and video games are not children’s toys anymore.  I see nothing inherently more immature about an adult who plays video games compared to an adult who spends the same amount of time golfing, fishing, or watching TV.  Hobbies are great as long as they don’t interfere with your life unreasonably.

However, if you’re going to play Pokémon Go, stop acting like an idiot and/or a jerk.  Don’t dart out into traffic or jump off a cliff because there is a Pokémon there.  And don’t go around saying that this game is only for adults who grew up playing Pokémon as children.  No, it’s not.  Let the n00bz have their fun.  And if you just jumped on the Pokémon bandwagon recently, don’t act like you know everything, because there are people who have been into Pokémon a lot longer than you.  All of you, seriously, just stop arguing and have fun.

I haven’t ruled out playing Pokémon Go in the future.  I recently saw a coworker who is around my age playing.  She said that, since she is a middle school teacher, like me, she wanted to become familiar with the game so as to understand what the students are all going to be talking about this year.  At that age, it is important for the students to feel like their teachers can relate to them, and I totally get that.  So we’ll see.

P.S.: Do me a favor and stop calling them Pokermanz.  That’s just annoying.