It might seem odd for a professor of literature, who usually writes about deeply political issues, to opine not only about an augmented reality game, but to also admit to having played it extensively over the last six weeks. To be honest, I find the game valuable and revolutionary in so many way, not the least of which is its focus on outdoor activity and on social interactions. I am writing this personal narrative to share the trials, tribulations, successes and failures in reaching level 30, considered, by many serious gamers, as a major milestone in the game. I will also provide, where necessary, some of my personal critical insights about the possibilities that this game opened up for me and that it can do for many other players/ trainers. I must admit, at the very outset, that before Pokémon Go I had never even once played any kind of video game: neither in my childhood nor in my adult life. Thus, my experience involved not just learning this specific game but also learning the general rules and practices of playing a game like this as a serious player.
The Learning Curve
I downloaded the game on July 13, 2016. Now, bear in mind that I had absolutely no background knowledge on the earlier versions of Pokémon games and I had not seen the series. Thus, when the three first Pokémon were offered to me by the professor, I chose at random and ended up with a Squirtle as my starter Pokémon. Later, of course, I learned that there are many different ways of catching the first Pokémon and that one could even start with Pikachu as the starter Pokémon. But, as a novice I still had to learn more: I had no idea what HP, CP, or XP meant nor did I have any idea about how to get these valuable commodities.
Thus, I started researching the game and in a few days had learned quite a lot from Reddit and other such forums on the game. Pretty soon, I was talking the lingo of the game and boasting about the CP of my Rattatas and Pidgeys:) This does not mean that I did not make the early mistakes that most other beginning players like myself had made.
Like everyone else, I evolved my Pokémon too early and thus ended up using a lot of stardust to power them up. Furthermore, since I did know much about what are the best moves and what Individual Values (IV) are the most suitable, I mostly relied on chance to end up with good enough evolved Pokémon.
I also learned too late in the game the use of lucky egg+mass evolution (Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Weedles) to level up. Had I learned this early enough in the game, it would have probably taken me less time to reach level thirty, but probably this whole journey would have been less fun without these mistakes.
General Lessons Learned
Level up using mass evolutions with a lucky egg but do it at a place where you can, if there is still some time left on the egg, cash some Pokestops and / or fight at a gym: That would give you added double XP bonus.
Enhance your Pokémon Bag (I think 350 is maximum) and your Items bag to maximum as early as possible.
Do not waste money on Pokeballs, lures or incenses: Invest in incubators!!! Every hatching not only brings you a new Pokémon (whose IVs tend to be perfect by the way) but also gives you a lot of XP and stardust.
Save your stardust for later, when you can catch and hatch higher level Pokémon so that you can power them up without spending massive quantities of stardust. I suggest evolving your main fighting team after you hit level 20; by then you will have caught first generation Pokémon at much higher level and will not need much stardust to make them stronger.
Have at least 12 top Pokémon’s, with varying combinations of powers, always at the maximum CP level corresponding to your game level. This way, when you level up, you can power them up to maximum quickly and then use the resources to power up other Pokémon down the list, if you need them.
When you do select a team of your fighting Pokémon, make sure you have all the varied varieties like fire, Ice, water etc.
Now, as it has been made available in the recent update, use the appraisal function in the app to figure out if a certain Pokémon is worth investing in.
I waited until I reached level 20 to engage in a gym fight; by then I had a few Pokémon powerful enough to take on a level four or five gym.
One lesson I learned quickly enough was that no matter how powerful your Pokémon; you cannot hold a gym alone: You can only successfully defend a gym if you hold it as a team!
But as a lone player, you can use your individual strength to earn extra XP. I learned this because of the opportunism of one of my opponents. I had just taken down a level 5 gym and was about to put my Pokémon in it, when suddenly someone from another team, who probably was waiting in the wings, placed his or her Pokémon first!! I felt cheated, but then decided to take their single guy down. That gave me 150 points. I repeated this ten times: I would take down their defender and wait for them to “beat” me to placing a new defender. In the end, I made 1500 points from a gym that I could have not held on to even if I had put my Pokémon in it.
I have named this technique “Gym Cashing” 🙂 So try this: take down a contested gym and get the points for it; then pause, wait, and let someone else stick their Pokémon up there. Then take that one down and see how long can you reap the rewards!!! If you are using a lucky egg, your rewards, of course, will be doubled!!
Keep this strategy in mind:
Attack: Don’t only just have a trained team of powerfulPokémon; make sure to plan the logistics and have enough healing potions to heal your team. So, stock up on healing potions before attacking a gym.
Defense: This game is collaborative, in gym battles, and unless you have a whole team of trainers ready to fortify and defend a gym, not even your most powerful Pokémon will be able to hold off an attack. So, take a couple of friends with you and when you take a gym, raise its prestige so that a couple of other people can add their Pokémon to it quickly.
So, over all catch whatever you can, mass evolve to level up, and wait till level 20 to really evolve your fighting team and save that stardust to power up your guys.
Invest in incubators.
Use “Gym Cashing” to earn extra points!!!
My Opinion on the Social Aspects of the Game
I think what makes this game amazing is the social aspect of it: You have to get out of the house to play it and you have to explore new places. Since I downloaded the game, I have talked to people I would have never run into, I have visited more places in my town, and I have been walking a lot (over 200 Kilometers). This social aspect of the game, to me, is the most important part of the game and I am glad that the developers are constantly highlighting this integral part of the game.
Team play is yet another aspect of the game that I find highly laudable: it can teach both youth and adults that working in concert with others can often be more rewarding!
In my small town (Pilot Point, Texas), I have decided that soon, through a local ice cream shop, I will start volunteering to lead the local kids on a Pokémon tour of the downtown area. Tis would involve passing through the Pokestops and talking about their history and then conducting two gym battles at both ends of the downtown. Overall, this would combine exercise, a lesson on local history, and an implicit education that working as a team is much better than just going it alone!!
I will certainly post some more on this topic and probably also write an academic article about it too, but for right now, thank you for reading and for letting me share my thoughts and experiences!
Go Catch’em all and reach level thirty: it’s a great feeling to be here!!!