Pokemon Go, PVP, and the Pandemic

The ongoing pandemic has meant finding new ways to keep my head clear without falling into the pit of despair. Big Wikiwrimo projects with specific and measurable goals kept me occupied in April and May, despite my work furlough (and eventual layoff) and the general doom and gloom of the world around us.

After those big things were done and I found myself floundering, I needed other things to occupy my time and keep me from falling.

Sure, not everything that occupies my time needs to be productive. After all, I no longer had a full-time job claiming 40 hours a week as of April, and there’s only so much time I can spend reading the news or goofing around online. As the weeks go by, so has my attention span. When I’ve been at my lowest, it’s been hard to concentrate on anything for more than a couple of mintues, including writing that last post (plus at least two more in the works). I’ve been going through a constant cycle trying to accomplish a specific thing, such as write this post, but instead find myself flipping between Twitter and Discord servers and Cookie Clicker and the NaNo forums and Pokemon Go and repeating all those, maybe mixing in the news or LinkedIn in the process. And before I know it, an hour has passed and I’ve forgotten what I was going to do in the first place.

And during this pandemic, despite everything, I missed people. To be more accurate, I missed being around people, even if just casually sitting in a coffee shop with people around me and knowing I paid for that fancy latte so damnit, I better get something done. I missed long walks and seeing friends and acquaintances on Community Day and raid days and at tournaments.

Playing PoGo in an urban area has many perks. When gamemakers Niantic extended the radius for spinning Pokestops and gyms so you could be a little further away to spin them, I suddenly found myself able to reach three Pokestops from my bedroom–four if I got a little drift in the bathroom or sat on the back porch. I can see sixteen gyms from home, with many others visible within a short walk. Since exercise has never been disallowed even while sheltering in place, I found myself walking around the neighborhood, taking down gyms and leveling up the ones I still wasn’t gold at it.

But seeing familiar faces at raids wasn’t enough, so I turned to PVP. I was already decent at it. I reached Challenger status in the Silph Arena and got invited to regionals in season 1 (where I crashed and burned, but that’s another story). All in a large community with two of the world’s top 100 players and many other great players (including some top players from the Go Battle League leaderboard), where I typically go 3-2 or 2-3 in my local tournaments, and tournament wins are extraordinarily rare.

I had meant to join a PVP lobby for awhile, but the 25 friend spaces typically required and the friend limit of 200 kept me from it. March’s switch to remote-only tournaments and battling an in-game friend after only one interaction meant I could practice with more people and participate in more tournaments. I could even do unranked practice tournaments. Starting with May’s themed tournament I started writing down the three Pokemon I used with the three Pokemon my opponent used for each match. This began on scraps of paper in May and eventually turned into a small notepad in July that I intend to keep using. I wrote down whether each battle was a win or a loss, whether I (or my opponent) did especially well in that match, and what moveset the opponents’ Pokemon had (if they were running an unexpected moveset or if multiple movesets were viable–looking at you, Hypno).

I looked for patterns. I started analyzing teams and trying to find holes in my teams, and soon I was able to find holes in my opponents’ teams as well. I learned that even if my opponent’s team had a hole that I could exploit, I was often better off leaving that hole’s counter as a safe swap instead of as a lead. I learned about counting fast moves (even though I’m still not good at it) and predicting when the opponent will use their charge move and occasionally guessed correctly (and sometimes made them guess incorrectly.

Through all this, I got better at playing. I reached the Ace tier on the Silph Arena, compared to last season when I was a purple Challenger. Sure, the Arena introduced new, even higher tiers this season, but reaching Ace still isn’t easy. I couldn’t have done that without the extra practice and doing only my local tournament every month. I even won a few tournaments. While two of those were three-round tournaments (with exactly eight people), one of those was a four-rounder with twelve people that I had zero expectation of winning because some folks in that tournament had defeated me in the past.

I also made PVP buddies from all over the world thanks to the Girls That PVP community, which I must fully credit for my increased success. I got to ask about possible team ideas in advance and even found myself giving advice to others. We generally hung out, which is something that doesn’t happen in the local Pokemon Go community. We started doing server-wide tournaments in March when the friendship restriction for remote battles was lifted. The server-wide tournaments typically last seven rounds. For the first one (Toxic Cup) I went 3-4. The second one (Forest), I went 4-3 and achieved my goal of ending positive. The latest two (Sorcerous and Catacomb)? Even better, both ending at 5-2, although I credit my girl Froslass for that improvement. (Seriously, she’s been on my team for every tournament victory.)

After all this, clearing out my friends list for some PVP space was worth it, just in case Niantic restricts remote battling to Ultra Friends (30 days of interaction) again. Building more communities upon which we have a common interest is what will get me through these horrible times.

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But now I need a break. There are no weighted tournaments this month, just a few reruns of some past tournaments with some additions and restrictions. Some are meta-changing (no Umbreon in Ferocious), others not so much. Honestly, I’m tired. I was hoping to have at least two months off before the next Silph cup season began, especially since it’s likely to begin in October or November as it did last year, and I have another thing or two going on then. So doing these August tournaments, while fun, is another thing on my plate at the same time.

Hopefully September (and October and November? Please?) will be a true month off before the next season begins and I can dive back in.

Pokemon Go

I grew up with Pokemon. I never had a GameBoy growing up, but fortunately my neighbor was kind enough to share his GameBoy. My brother and I would take turns playing game after game of Pokemon Red and Yellow for hours at a time, but since we had only one GameBoy between us, we couldn’t trade and truly catch ’em all.

Since then I’ve kept up with each new generation, albeit several years late. I spent high school playing Pokemon Crystal, while later playing Emerald and Fire Red and Platinum and Soul Silver and Black. (I still haven’t grabbed Black 2, nor acquired a 3DS yet for Generation 6.) Each generation grabbed a big part of my interest, my interest growing with each generation of new Pokemon.

So when Pokemon GO was announced, a mobile game where you can catch virtual Pokemon while out and about in the real world, I was pumped. Even though Ingress never appealed to me, I have occasionally played mobile location games like geocaching. A game where you could really catch Pokemon? Sign me up.

And sign up I did, as soon as the game was available in the United States. Unfortunately that was on Wednesday evening, and naturally the game was released after I had walked to and from my monthly book club meeting and run five miles. But that didn’t stop me from wandering outside around sunset in search of Pokemon and Pokestops (local landmarks to get free in-game supplies).

The Pokemon Go servers have experienced some ups and downs over the last few days; almost everyone I know who grew up with Pokemon has embraced Pokemon Go. We’ve been going out, stopping by Pokestops to get new supplies for free and wandering around in search of new Pokemon. While one of my friends is catching Eevees and Dratinis out the wazoo from her own living room, I seem to be stuck with Pidgey and Rattata and the occasional Zubat if I don’t want to leave the house.

Fortunately, Pokemon Go contains yet another perk to living in a large city. There are Pokestops almost everywhere here, including three that I can access from the parking area behind my house and three or four more just by walking around the block.

The only small problem with this is that, just like in the handheld games, there’s a limit to how many items you can carry in your bag. While the handheld games limit the number of distinct items (so if you have 100 Pokeballs, only one of them counts toward the limit), Pokemon Go counts each individual item as an item, so those 100 Pokeballs count as 100 items toward the 350 item limit. Since there are so many Pokestops within a short walk from my house and these Pokestops can be activated again for more items, I’ve reached that item limit several times in two days. Most of those items are Pokeballs, so my main current solution is to catch more Pokemon to get rid of Pokeballs while getting more items and experience.

This also means that at level 7, I’m building a small Rattata and Pidgey army. It really is like starting a regular Pokemon game. Time to take a break and transfer the weaklings for more candies. My Rattata will be in the top percentage of Rattata!

For any non-Pokemon Go players who want to go on a walk with me: I’m so sorry.

Who else is playing? Anyone managed to find any cool Pokemon yet?