October 3, 2019

STELLA | The Pokémon Go Revival Tour

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In July 2016, I attended my first sleep-away camp (never did one again), my first girlfriend broke up with me and perhaps the biggest worldwide phenomenon ever released reached our phones. Pokémon GO was a cultural revolution and the closest we’ve come to world peace.

Like many others who collected the cards or played the games as kids, I was thrilled to get back to my childhood, eager to hunt for Pokémon and reminisce my innocence before prelims and credit card bills. The game garnered so much attention that even those who couldn’t tell a Nidoking from a Kangaskhan (amateurs) strolled the streets of their hometowns, flinging Pokéballs across their little black screens.

Yet, the game’s popularity vanished just as quickly as it arrived. Strangers were no longer striking up conversations with each other about where to find the Charmander nest off Polk Street (that’s in San Francisco, for the 75 percent of campus that hails from the Tri-State area). It’s true, the app took some heat for car crashes and injuries due to not looking down the stairwell, but this wasn’t the reason for its eventual loss of interest.

The truth is, we got bored. After the thousandth measly Pidgey we caught, how could we not? As much of a blast to the past the game was for many of us, there weren’t enough features to keep us consistently entertained, and eventually, we logged off for the final time. Or so we thought.

At the beginning of this summer, my grownup brother — with a full-time job, a nice apartment and now even considering getting his own cell phone plan — brought up Pokémon GO at the dinner table. I hadn’t thought about the game in years, and shrugged him off at first, but as he kept explaining the new app, I became more and more intrigued. Shortly after, I was a part of the reason that August 2019 was the most successful month for the app since its initial release.

I’m in a group chat with my friends and fellow Pokémon hunters. It started when I convinced one to join the app again, and since then a new name has popped up in the chat every day. In fact, another one joined while I wrote this. I received the all-too-familiar notification, “Let’s be friends in Pokémon GO! My trainer code is…” Pokoboyos, the group chat, is now at a heroic 14 members, but is always looking for more enthusiasts. I promise I’m not on Niantic’s marketing team, but there is already a large Cornell community of Pokémon GOers for you to join.

Apart from the ecstasy you will face at the hands of this nostalgic game, it also inspires a healthy lifestyle. Pokémon GO promotes being active as you walk far distances to hatch eggs and earn other rewards. I used to try and catch a ride to my early morning classes, but now I always opt to walk. Additionally, with the heaps of studies that show the correlation between levels of anxiety and depression with social media use amongst our generation, an alternative use of screen time could be beneficial. The people I know who have redownloaded Pokémon GO have spent less time on Instagram and Facebook.

Ithaca is well renowned for its natural beauty. The nomenclature “Ithaca is Gorges’’ has probably pulled in millions of dollars in just bumper sticker sales alone. With prelims looming heavily over us, it’s important to remember to get outside. Clearly, the best way to enjoy Ithaca’s natural hikes is to redownload Pokémon GO.

I won’t bore you with all the updates the game has undergone, but if you haven’t been sold to redownload the app just yet, I urge you to consider that there are now five regions of Pokémon to catch out in the wild (Pidgeys are actually sort of rare now), and you can trade with and battle friends. If you have a friend who is prettier than you, smarter, more athletic and overall better in most aspects, challenge them to a battle. You might be a better trainer than them, and that matters most. There are events called raids, in which you gather with friends, strangers, loved ones and ex-cons alike to beat a very strong Pokémon. I’ve taken many a study break with my friends to challenge raids at Mann Library. If your team is successful, you all get the chance to catch the creature, be it an armored Mewtwo or a smiling Gengar. Finally, Niantic added community days. One day a month, 90 percent of all wild Pokémon appear as the same, rare breed, allowing you to earn enough candies to get it to its final evolution.

There is nothing more wholesome than spending a Saturday down in the Commons catching Turtwigs next to people of all ages, some geared up in Pokémon attire, others still shy about re-embracing the Pokémon world. I never thought I’d make friends with a middle-aged Asian man and his son, but Stephen and I send daily gifts to each other now — in-game. The app encourages strangers to work together and share in the excitement, and I’m very confident this will be how I meet my future wife.

Whatever team you choose (Go Team Instinct!), you won’t regret hopping back on and secretly catching Seedots in the back of your intro to Psych lecture in Bailey Hall. As the saying goes, you gotta catch ‘em all.

P.S. Let’s be friends in Pokémon GO! My trainer code is 7854 0785 9557.

AJ Stella is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ajs548@cornell.edu. Stellin’ It Like It Is runs every other Friday this semester.