The controversy of Niantic’s latest changes to Pokemon GO is filling players full of woe. After the world-famous 3-step glitch, Niantic removed the function entirely, possibly because the tool was too flawed to recover. For many of us, this was a huge frustration. Players turned to other tools to help them hunt down the elusive Pokemon they were so desperate to find. Unfortunately, these third-party apps broke the Terms of Service players agree to. As of the removal of the flawed three-step utility, many third-party apps no longer function at all. Our family had a surprising group reaction: relief.
Upon reflection, I’m not surprised. With a family of 4, it can be difficult to enjoy things as a group. Afraid of seeing my loved ones disappointed by wasted time or other frustrations, I dove in (with most of the internet) and found ways to speed things up. Gamification had the opposite effect, however, and made the game a chore. We no longer felt free to wander and explore. Instead, we chased Pokemon, ‘stops, and gyms, maximizing our time spent on the hunt.
With PokeVision, I was able to track local Pokemon in real time. We could hunt down the elusive water types in our area, without running around in confused circles at the lake. Excited to speed us along the collector’s track, I pinpointed every local Pokemon, so I could rush my family to the spot. Instead of the wonder of happening across a ‘mon, we’d aggressively seek them out. Sadly, another trend emerged, one that I regret greatly. A level gap grew, and that had meaning beyond the numbers. Obsessed with numbers, exploits, and other forms of gamification, I rose through the ranks quickly. My family, though, didn’t. They played by the “rules” but didn’t have the passion for the numbers that drove me higher. They felt left behind, not good enough, etc. More than one nearly quit playing entirely. They just didn’t have the passion for the munchkin-like numbers game.
When PokeVision respectfully downed their service, I was upset, afraid that my last chance to boost my family to the same level as me had fallen apart. We could no longer dash around town chasing from nest to nest, farming XP for them. Instead, we would to get out of the car, walk around town, and find them the old fashioned way. Without knowing where to find that darned Electabuzz, or even if it was there, we couldn’t ever just drive up and park. Also, since rare Pokemon might only pop up on one player’s phone if we drove right by, we had to slow down to a walk in order to find them together. This meant that driving was also removed from our routine entirely. Frustration abounded at the thought. Living in Arizona means that wandering around on foot can be a hot mess.
After we actually got out of the car and on our feet, however, we found some delights we hadn’t known about before. The first was that we weren’t just driving by the amazing art canvasing our beautiful town. Instead, Pokemon GO helped us tease out the sculptures, dedications, and other wonders surrounding us. From murals covering hundreds of square feet to abstract art and memorials, we found beauty and wonders we’d never seen when we’d pass them by in the car.
A key example is Prescott’s Statehood Tree. This beautiful tree was planted February 14th, 1912, when Arizona secured the honor of Statehood. Prescott, America’s Christmas City, decorates the tree every year, and it receives doting attention from the Arizona Community Tree Council. It’s a verified witness to the entirety of Arizona’s Statehood. Until Pokemon GO brought me to its towering boughs, however, I’d never heard of it. Until that moment, I thought it was just a surprisingly tall tree for the area. And there, my friend, was the wonder.
This little discovery sparked a curiosity about our town that has grown in orders of magnitude over the last few days. Instead of hunting out high-density areas of Pokestops, we’ve found a newly impassioned habit of seeking out the bizarre and beautiful parts of our town which we’ve only just begun to discover. The joy of discovery has taken over our Pokemon outings. My wife and daughter are more engaged, and find true joy in hunting down Pokestops. My son and I are less frustrated when an elusive Pokemon despawns before we can even see it in the game.
The best advantage, in the end, has been that nobody is driving. Instead of a passenger double-fisting phones to hit stops, everyone gets to enjoy the process. Though we still do this when driving around on errands, it’s no longer part of the Pokemon-specific outings. We also get more exercise and bonding time. We can more actively celebrate each other’s achievements, and hover in anxious excitement when someone’s egg hatches.
Regarding eggs, we hatch so many more now. With the current tracking system, most forms of travel are tracked inaccurately, including jogging or walking too quickly. I might jog 10K, but only get credit for 4K, inexplicably. Walking as a group of four slows us down enough that our steps are naturally counted more accurately. This works best in areas with great cell/GPS signal.
Instead of number-crunching while we play, I watch nearby players, ready to yell “Team Harmony!” while I kick them out of their gym. Because nothing brings people together like a fight, right? (Mystic FTW, though.)
I must admit that the 3-step glitch is a significant pain, but we just ignore the “nearby” list for now. Because of the abundant mountains, a “nearby” Pokemon might be 10+ minutes away, assuming one travels in the correct direction. Even when the steps worked properly, we weren’t able to utilize it because of this. So we ignore it, and find excitement when one does find its way across our path.
It turns out, Niantic designed the game to be really, really fun for our family just the way it is. Also, without PokeVision or tools like it, playing Pokemon GO feels a lot more like catching Pokemon in the games. Wandering around town is the equivalent of walking in the “tall grass.” It feels much more like home, and that just can’t be beat.