On Games 2: Poké Problems Returns

So, although Pokémon Go is down to 20 million users– from 100 million users at its peak– I’m still playing. And with a game this technologically intricate, playing means frustrating. It is still the game I love right up until I hate it.

Though it has come a long way.

What’s to hate? There’s a fun– if a bit over-exuberant– event going on for Halloween, doubling candy for all Pokémon and haunting the crap out of everything. I haven’t been able to keep Pokéballs in stock, just because I can’t leave the room without running into another Gastly. But seriously, “too many Pokémon for me to catch” is a weird complaint at best. No, it’s the other stuff.

The updates.

After the first couple updates, Pokémon Go seemed to have smoothed out a lot of the wrinkles I pointed to in my previous post. It didn’t work perfectly, but it mostly worked. I could play the game, spin Pokéstops and capture helpless pretend monster things in peace. They’d added buddies, I was gathering candy as I walked and powering up my ‘Mons. All was well. Then came an update and everything changed.

I think it was around the beginning of October; the big intended change that I saw in game play was that I could suddenly see myself walking around Pokéstops when I zoomed in to spin them. Weird but harmless, sometimes a little scary when my avatar suddenly walks in between my finger and the Pokéstop it’s about to spin.

However, it wasn’t long before I noticed the other major change. They’d fixed the whole “doesn’t crash when I try to play the game” problem admirably. Now I could crash the app through a variety of tasks including: browsing through my Pokémon Bag, attempting to trade undesired pocket monsters for candy, and of course the old favorite of trying catch a Pokémon aka playing the game. It even crashed my phone once– I was walking through my neighborhood, tried to catch a recalcitrant Pidgey– insult to injury– and my iPhone went black and had to be rebooted. Achievement unlocked! I gotta assume that’s what they were going for.

Even as they’ve worked to make training Pokémon in gyms easier, glitches have successfully made it harder, with innovations like trying to make me fight an enemy gym while my screen is still full of my roster of Pokémon. Is it hard to play a touchscreen game while 60% of your screen is taken up by a non-touch sensitive banner that won’t close? Or, if you get a phone call– this game is played exclusively on devices ostensibly used for human communication– you can enjoy seeing the game appear to work while actually being frozen. A real treat.

So yeah, Pokémon Sarcastic is apparently my new game– my 3-year-old’s was “Pokémon Stop,” which is an altogether better name. But I have not yet stopped. Compulsion is a great tool in games of attrition and that– ultimately– is what Pokémon Go is. I will, you know, catch a very large number of them. Since they will continue to release new Pokémon into the wild, probably not all of them.

But I will go to my grave knowing that I tried.

I will say this guy already won at Pokémon, though, as much as such a thing is possible. Creativity and real work trump complaining about imaginary problems every time.