After years of disappointment, Pokémon Go Fest has recaptured the magic

Ultra Beasts are in a grassy park, with Pikachu leading the way.

Image: Niantic

As recorded on Kotakumy trip to Pokemon GO has there been one started two years ago in happiness caused by lockdownand then descended slowly go inside disappointment after disappointment. However, this weekend, despite what appears to be Niantic’s Best EffortsI finally experienced Pokemon GO at its best: a joyful day out with a group of great people, hunting for shinies and working together to check off tasks.

Last Saturday the end of the 2022’s was dragged Pokemon GO Fest, in which the godforsaken story of Professor Willow’s disappearance was finally solved, and at last we were able to capture the long-promised Ultra Beasts, Pheromosa, Buzzwole, Xurkitree, and Nihilego, as well as Shaymin Sky-Form’s ultimate prize. But for the first time in my experience it wasn’t just me and my boy playing. And it changed everything.

My main point of contention with Niantic’s recent unwanted changes to POGObeing outside determination to ignore covid advice bordering on zeal is the company’s astounding belief that if they make events more difficult to participate in, somehow more people will start playing together. This Saturday, however, had no such folly in order. Instead, the Slot Fest event ran from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a new set of tasks and raids every two hours. So, as is customary for such in-game events, Toby – now seven years old – and I headed to the local park, which has a myriad of gyms and stops to help you plow through challenges more easily.

The ‘bandstand’ is the best place. Three gyms at once at your fingertips, and it’s the only place we have ever seeing someone else play, if only for a fleeting, somewhat uncomfortable mutual nod of recognition. Toby had his swimming lesson at 11:30 am, so we thought we’d finish the first part of the tasks, and then inevitably after the break he’d decide he didn’t want to play anymore, and I’d try. to round out the challenges at home as the big, sad person I so often am. Except something else happened. At that bandstand stood a circle of people, all with phones in their hands, all looking down with their arms.

As we walked down the hill, instead of coming over to us protectively, they looked up and noticed that our phone was sticking it out in that signature way. POGO players, and invited us! Three adults, three children, many pokemon t shirts. We made eight of them. They were the most beautiful couple, a couple with their 10-year-old boy and a mother with her 9- and 13-year-old boys. We were immediately invited to catch a Pheromosa, and for the first time in two years playing this crazy game, I experienced a real, real, personal heist.

My new group of friends were in the park playing Pokemon GO in a circle.

Photo: Kotaku

This isn’t because we want to try, but instead because of what Niantic can’t accept: that it’s not 2016 anymore and there aren’t hordes of excited players in every gym. For my whole POGO career, I’ve had to use apps like Poke Genie to do five-star heists, meaning I’ve mysteriously captured legends from countries around the world, but never from the road from my home.

We talked away, exchanged pokemon experience stories, Toby pulled out his folder filled with his favorite TCM cards, and everyone just had the most lovable hour. But it was time to go for a swim, so after exchanging friendship codes we said goodbye to our fleeting friends.

Determined to try and keep him on the line Pokemon GO play some more after his lesson, because yes, of course, I’m the one who wants to play it a lot more now than he does, I suggested we walk even further from home to have some lunch. At 1:45 PM, and with a Machop still missing from that second volume’s collection challenge, I had him mock his leftover ice cream and we set out to catch the blue teaser that refused to show up at the restaurant. He was just outside, but the third part of the day was about to begin, catching new Pokémon, and most importantly Xurkitree’s electrical fire risk to catch. I suggested walking back through the park, just in case.

And they all were! Our gang! They had since moved, but were also back at the bandstand and again we were cordially invited to join them. It turns out that the two families had met at the same location a few months ago, despite living in other towns in opposite directions from our small town. All were excited pokemon fans, one couple had been that since its early 90s, the other mom picked it up when her kids did, along with her partner, and then quickly became the most obsessed member of the family. Which is, uh, kinda familiar. Cough.

As the tasks alternated, we completed them all as a group and worked together to help each other. When Toby found a hundo Swirlix, everyone rushed to grab it, including what it turned out to be other players who were quietly nearby. When that tiresome other-(one)dimensional helmeted guy told us to walk a mile and hatch an egg, we set out in two groups for a tour of the park. There was friendly gibberish, cheerful chatter, and even some profound and meaningful adult chatter.

Three kids run through the park, chatting and playing Pokemon GO.

Photo: Kotaku

We ended up spending the rest of the afternoon, until about 4:30 PM, with these wonderful people, and I’m pleased to report that we exchanged numbers and plan to meet for future Community Days and events. It’s the golden one Pokemon GO experience I’ve only heard about before, mostly in the comments among other things POGO articles I’ve written, from nostalgic, lamenting long-term players. And I finally came across it myself.

I understand much better why Niantic is so fixated on this. While the multi-billion dollar company is, of course, primarily driven by making huge amounts of money, its rhetoric is based almost entirely on a desperation to re-bottle the escaped ghost of 2016. It will infuriate and alienate the entire planet of players through bone-crushing obviously bad decisions, just because it gets the idea in its head people will find community again. The company cut the length of Community Days in half this year just because it thought people would meet each other sooner if the time slot was limited. The obvious reality is that it just means more people can’t get involved, and the chances of you running into someone if there is no one otherwise it will not improve if you make it more difficult to participate.

But on Saturday, before one of the biggest events of the year, I experienced it. I can see why people who lived through the game’s heyday so desperately want this to happen again. It makes a huge difference, and I can imagine most people (like me) never played the game before covidever knew. Can’t wait to meet them all again at the next chance, and play the game the way it was meant to be.

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