This past Saturday was Pokémon Go Community Day, so I decided to get out there and take a walk to catch some lil’ dragon dudes. And what happened that afternoon reminded me exactly why I love my gaming hobby.
Full disclosure: I have basically never stopped playing Pokémon Go. I liked it when I started, and, ultimately, PG requires very little effort to wedge its way into my everyday life. I don’t travel outside of my area code very often, but I travel a great deal within roughly a 50 mile circumference, and there are very few pokéstops I have not hit in that sphere. It’s easy to boot up the game while I’m getting out of the car, and if someone has to wait while I catch an errant Nosepass, that’s their problem. But even more than that, I enjoy walking recreationally, as it gives me a fine excuse to experience that glowy ball thing in the sky every once in a while so I don’t accidently go full albino. And if I was going to take a walk anyway, may as well hatch a few eggs along the way. I’m not going out of my way for raids or to capture some random ‘mon that appeared on my radar, but if you play a game once a week while you’re exercising (“exercising”) for two years, it adds up pretty quick.
So Community Day was an excellent excuse to go out, take my weekly walk on the boardwalk, and capture a few monster eels. And I wasn’t alone! There were a great number of people out there walking the boards and hunting Dratini, too. Some kid was bragging about finding thirteen separate shinies… but come on, man, at least come up with a more plausible lie.
But it was towards the end of the event that the magic happened.
There are a number of Pokémon Gyms on the boardwalk, but one has become special. See, there’s been a lot of construction going on in the area (turns out a pile of wood constantly exposed to the elements maybe requires a little maintenance), and a lot of it has been focused in one area. As a result, one Pokémon gym wound up right in the middle of a construction site, and is wholly roped off by all manner of barricades. Mind you, this “construction site” is only active during very limited hours (it is Winter, nobody likes to work in the cold), and is otherwise fairly safe. Thus, somehow, this gym that cannot currently be lawfully accessed sees a bit of gym turnover, because of course it’s an excellent spot to earn coins. At least the whole situation makes it slightly more difficult to knock out your Tyrannitar.
And then, in the middle of Pokémon Go Community Day, a Rayquaza raid popped up in that very gym.
I was already in the area anyway, so I made my way to the gym’s general area. There, I found a trio of people roughly my age debating hopping the barricade to go participate in the raid. I made some comment along the lines of “room for one more?” and snuck on through with the rest. We collectively decided that it would be a bad idea to be so obviously on the wrong side of the fence, so we attempted to duck down a nearby (but still in range of the gym) alley. I say “attempted”, because we quickly rammed into about forty people crammed into that alley. We were all surprised, and one fellow toward the back said five simple words:
“Welcome to Pokémon Fight Club.”
For the sake of posterity, Pokémon Fight Club consisted of, but was not limited to:
- A healthy number of adults playing a children’s AR game.
- A number of children that seemed genuinely impressed that so many helpful adults were around.
- A grandmother playing with her grandchildren. To be clear, grandma was absolutely playing the game with them, as they were having a lengthy debate about when it’s proper to use a golden razz berry.
- One Pomeranian looking dog, who seemed a little annoyed at the crowd, but was otherwise civil.
I know there were over forty of us squeezed in there, because at least one guy was attempting to organize everyone by team for at least three raids. And, for the record, organizing this wad of nerds wasn’t that difficult, as everyone seemed to group up effectively… even if they couldn’t actually physically move.
Frankly, against this Pokémon Fight Club? That Rayquaza never had a chance.
I’ve been playing videogames for three decades, and I’ve never experienced anything like that. I’ve grouped up with people for “raids” online, and I’ve even participated in similar events in real life a few times for conventions and alike. But there in that alley? Finding Pokémon Fight Club? Possibly the most wholesome Fight Club ever imagined? That was new, and one of the most unique events I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
So, yeah, that’s why I’m still playing Pokémon Go. And that’s why I love videogames in all forms.