2016 was a simpler time in many ways – and nothing was simpler than our joyous, fleeting obsession with Pokémon Go.
On July 5th, the new mobile game launched in the US and became a literal overnight sensation. By the time it was released in London, nine long days later, our Pokéballs were ready to explode.
Unlike yer typical iPhone timewaster, Pokémon Go got players to walk around (gasp!) in the real world, tracking down new creatures in nearby locations. And from the reaction, anyone would think this was the first time any of us had left the house. The police genuinely had to put out special instructions:
Immediately, ‘people going places’ resulted in all kinds of bizarre happenings. In Islington, Pokéhunters were held up at gunpoint. Rumours suggested gangs were luring Pokémon to shady locations using in-game powerups, then relieving smartphone-wielding innocents of their possessions. And in south-east London, three Pokémon Goers stumbled across a couple rutting in a field.
Elsewhere people kept finding dead bodies again and again and again.
But mugging, dogging and rotting corpses aside, everyone was having a billboard time discovering a whole new place called ‘The Outdoors.’
There were Pokémon pub crawls and parties. And in parks around the world, huge mobs of people could be seen stampeding towards invisible Pokémon:
Our sister site in Madrid even managed to get 5,000 people to turn up in a square. It really was glorious, childlike fun. An innocent good time for all.
And then, a few months later, there was… nothing.
So what happened? Well, the problem was – it was frustratingly shit, wasn’t it?
Most memorably, the app would crash every few minutes, especially if you were in the middle of actually catching a Pokémon. Not to mention, it was hard to find where the damn things were.
A few weeks after launch, to prevent people poking-and-driving (if you will), the app would refuse to work if it detected you moving faster than a walking pace, which meant our circuitous bus journeys home were no longer relaxing opportunities to catch ’em all. Also, like, it wasn’t summer anymore? So, rapidly, everyone got a bit tired of it.
And that’s a shame because, a year later, it’s actually… quite good! Or, at least, as good as we thought it was in the first place. There are more Pokemon in more places, an extra hundred monster types to catch, and – hurrah! – the app doesn’t crash. There are visual clues to what Pokemon are hanging out at which nearby Pokéstops, and yes, you can once again play from the top deck of the 176 as you crawl along Charing Cross Road. (The creatoirs still haven’t worked out how to achieve such things as ‘swap Pokemon with friends’ or ‘have a Pokemon battle with your friends’ but I’m sure they’ll work it out eventually.)
I’m not suggesting we all need to stampede through Hyde Park in our thousands again. But maybe we could gently bring Pokémon Go back for a few sun-kissed weeks each summer, just like we do with cooking processed meat products over open fire or falling asleep slightly drunk under trees. In a turbulent 2017, at least we can still explore new little streets with our friends, and if we don’t Catch ‘Em All, then that’s fine – we’ll just catch a few.
And maybe we’ll even find a dead body!