Pokémon Go

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

July 6, 2021

Until early 1999, I had never heard the word “Pokémon” which is a shortened version of the Japanese term for the iconic Gameboy creatures, Pocket Monsters, created in 1996.

Pikachu – the iconic symbol of Pokémon .

It was in the spring of 1999 when Pokémon trading cards took over the elementary school where my son was in the third grade. For a number of months we made frequent treks to the card store so that my son could buy a packet of the cards to add to his collection and, ostensibly, trade with his school mates.

Like all such fads, the trading card obsession faded and by Fourth grade year, it was over. Or so I thought.

If everyone thought the Pokémon cards were a big deal they had not, in the words of the Bachman Turner Overdrive song You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

It was on July 6, 2016 when Pokémon Go was launched and became a worldwide experience.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The game was referred to as a ‘social media phenomenon’ which has brought people together from all walks of life. 231 million people engaged in 1.1 billion interactions that mentioned Pokémon Go on Facebook and Instagram in the month of July. Numerous media outlets referred to the surge in popularity as ‘Pokémon Go Mania’, or simply ‘Pokémania’.The massive popularity of the game resulted in several unusual positive effects. For example, the game placed players where they can help catch criminals and report crimes in progress, although it has also placed some in harm’s way, and has even aided law enforcement’s community relations. albeit with caveats. Businesses also benefited from the nearby presence of PokéStops (or them being PokéStops themselves) with the concomitant influx of people, and the intense exploration of communities has brought local history to the forefront.

The highly coveted Charizard trading card

For those unfamiliar with the game, it popularized AR – Augmented Reality –with users being able to find and capture the Pokémon which appeared as animated creatures on an i-phone or Android device. Think of it this way: when you open the Pokémon Go app on your phone, the world appears in a cartoonish form with grass, trees, water, and buildings. If a Pokémon is nearby it will materialize on the screen and provide the user an opportunity to ‘catch’ it by throwing a Pokéball at the creature. Once caught, the Pokémon is added to the user’s collection. The goal, initially, is to catch at least one of every Pokémon. These, most often, can be evolved into a new Pokémon – so long as you have earned enough points to do so by capturing many, many of the original Pokémon.

PokéStops can be found in every community, and when accessed give the user rewards in the form of additional Pokéballs and other game enhancers.

Despite many of the initial players not continuing, the game’s early success garnered a number of firsts. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The game was awarded five Guinness World Records in August 2016: most revenue grossed by a mobile game in its first month ($206.5 million); most downloaded mobile game in its first month (130 million downloads); most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month (top game in 70 different countries); most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month (top grossing in 55 countries simultaneously); and fastest time to gross $100 million by a mobile game (reached in 20 days on July 26). By September 2016, Pokémon Go had been downloaded over 500 million times worldwide, and became the fastest game to make over $500 million in revenue. Pokémon Go was awarded the App Store’s breakout hit of 2016. Pokémon Go was reported to be the most searched game on Google in 2016.

The crowd which descended upon us in search of Charizard on August 21, 2016 in Bellevue.

Pokémon Go arrived at my house about a month after its release. I’d been in Yakima and arrived back in Kirkland about 7 p.m. one August evening and just as I turned down our street I notice my son out walking. I pull to the curb and ask him where he’s going. At that moment he admits his friend Vincent had gotten him started on Pokémon Go.

Curious, I went out walking with him the next night to see how it all worked. This went on for two weeks and then I cracked and loaded the app on my phone. Soon my son and I were venturing out in search of rare Pokémon, making trips to parks and other places to ‘catch them all.’

The ‘oldest’ creature in my collection is the Charizard I caught on August 21, 2016. AR allows one to take ‘pictures’ with your Pokémon

The most amazing Pokémon day of all was on August 21, 2016. We had driven to the Downtown Park in Bellevue (across from Bellevue Square) and there – with hundreds of our ‘best’ friends – wandered about the park capturing digital monsters.

And then it happened. The rarest of rare Pokémon, the ONE everyone had coveted from way back in the card collecting days of 1999, pops up on our screen and we are standing – literally – a few feet away from the GPS location where it spawned.

A collective roar goes up across the park and – I kid you not – the pounding of hundreds of pairs of feet headed our way shake the ground like an earthquake. My hands are trembling as I attempt to capture Charizard (I’m still a very green novice at this point), ignoring the masses who are descending upon us in their frenzy to capture the beast. Of course I am attempting the same thing. On the third attempt, the elusive fire dragon is locked in my Pokéball and the son and I emerge from behind the bushes to an unreal scene. I did have the presence of mind to snap a couple of photos of the massive crowd that evening.

Since that day both my son and daughter have quit playing the game. I admit it has lost a lot of its appeal; it was a fun way to spend time with my adult children. Even so, I still play it as it gives me something to do when a passenger on a trip. But nothing will ever replace the thrill of the hunt on that August night in the summer of 2016 when Pokémon ruled the world.



The conversation is between my son and I after the great Charizard spawn and capture on August 21, 2016

Update July 6, 2022: I have, for the most part, quit playing Pokémon Go and removed the app from my phone. That said, my data still exists out there on some database. If I’m truly bored I can simply reload the game and see what’s new in Pokéworld.

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