I found out something in the last month that I’d always suspected but had never been able to test — my enthusiasm for Pokemon Go is very much linked to the social aspects of the game.
Now the UK is on lockdown and I’m no longer walking to work and meeting up at lunchtime for raids, I’ve lost a massive amount of interest in the game.
Niantic for their part are responding well to their player base being locked indoors by making tools for spawning Pokemon at home in cheap and plentiful ways, with even more ‘play at home’ initiatives on the way like the ability to raid remotely.
Before the UK went into lockdown Niantic had announced their first UK Safari Zone event would be held the weekend after my girlfriend’s birthday in April and as we’re both avid Pokemon Go fans I made sure we had our tickets and time off work to attend.
My history of Pokemon Go events
I’ve been to a number of Safari Zone and Go Fest events in the past years and I really love them, they’re a great excuse to go travelling and a fantastic environment to be in, especially thanks to the battle and trading features now in the game.
Since 2017 I’ve been to a number of Pokemon Go events:
- Safari Zone Amstelveen (2017)
- Manchester and London ‘Europe’ events (2017)
- London Games Developer Conference event (2018)
- Safari Zone Dortmund (2018)
- Go Fest Chicago (2019)
- Go Fest Dortmund (2019)
I attended the last event with my girlfriend instead of the usual group from Leeds I tend to go with, as I wanted her to experience how fun the events are. She very much enjoyed herself and was looking forward to Liverpool.
Adapting to changing circumstances
I think Niantic did a great job reacting to the changing situation across the world as many of the places they had planned events for were now in lockdown.
I guess Niantic as a company have some experience in offering alternative ways to play due to events encountering issues or being cancelled.
During the day that my friends and I were going to play at Go Fest Chicago there was a thunderstorm warning and the park got evacuated for a couple of hours, so they made up for the lost time by allowing ticket holders for that day to play another eight hours worth of the Go Fest spawns in their home location.
The second play through of Go Fest Chicago was great as it meant those who weren’t able to make it to Chicago were able to see the type of spawns we got, but this time in Leeds, where we’ve perfected a ‘Pokemon Go grinding route’.
In order to allow players to still participate in Safari Zone Liverpool from home, Niantic gave players a bunch of incense (used to spawn Pokemon at the player’s location) and a very stripped down research story to complete while increasing the spawn and shiny rate of different Pokemon (such as Relicanth — usually only available in New Zealand).
While I commend Niantic for finding a means of taking a game that really needs to be played outside where you can move freely and translating that to a stationary location, I really don’t think the Pokemon spawn and catch mechanic is that fun where you’re glued to the spot waiting for a new Pokemon to spawn every five minutes.
Was it any good?
Unfortunately for me however where I was stuck at home, my annual leave that I’d booked off to attend the event was cancelled so I was working while attempting to check my phone when I could to check spawns, and this meant that I didn’t get the most out of it.
I think if I had an automatic catching device such as a Go Plus I’d have been able to reduce the overhead to just emptying my storage of junk Pokemon but even though I had a pretty decent location for spawns I only managed to nab the guaranteed shiny Chinchou from the research.
I know others in the Leeds player base who had a really good time, they live outside of the city centre and as such getting the level of spawns where they live is just something that doesn’t happen.
However for me, this event was a bit crap and I’d have been happy with just a refund. The knock on effect of this event has been a bit of an awakening on how the value of Pokemon Go has been tied up in my social life and how I need to transfer that to an activity that’s a bit more productive.