I never ever thought I’d hear someone lamenting the fact that they don’t have a shiny dog. And yet, here we are.
When Pokémon Go first debuted in the summer of 2016, I was intrigued. Catching cute little creatures out in the real world, in real time with the help of your smartphone’s GPS? Flaunting high-level Pokémon in virtual gyms controlled by your team?
However, I knew next to nothing about the Pokémon franchise and decided not to download it. After all, I had just upgraded from a slider phone to an iPhone and I didn’t know the first thing about data conservation. Better safe than Safety Mode, right?
Fast forward to April 2018. In the past couple of weeks, a number of my friends have been talking about Pokémon Go. At first, I felt a bit left out of the loop, but one day I decided to see what this is all about.
And that was the day I sold my soul.
I didn’t think that Pokémon Go would be all that popular this far out from its release date. I remember the “Oh, you still play that garbage?” narrative that followed a few months after the buzz had died down (I admit I took part in it too), and wondered if that was true.
Instead of finding that out, I found an entire hidden subculture on GC’s campus — a subculture of teams and rivalries trying to figure out which one of those Team Valor punks sniped Team Instinct’s only gym, just by their username. Teams fight for control of the local gyms on campus.
Valor, the red team prefers strength, whereas Instinct, the yellow team, prefers intuition. A third team, Mystic (blue), prefers wisdom.
I started eyeballing passing students whose eyes were on their phones, wondering if they had their sights on a text message or a rare shiny Pikachu. And this was all before you could be friends with other trainers in-game.
This past summer, Niantic (the creators of Pokémon Go) introduced several new features to the game: adding friends, sending gifts, and trading Pokémon. As soon as these elements were available to us, my friends and I spammed our group chat with our trainer codes. Once we were all back on campus in the fall, we were able to trade with each other and earn bonuses during Raid Battles by taking on legendary Pokémon in virtual gyms.
Of course, the age-old team mechanic has created strong rivalries within the friend group. For a while, I was the only Instinct in my squad, the majority being Team Valor with the occasional Mystic. Let me tell you, being the only one representing your team—specifically, the only Instinct—in a sea of mostly Valor is rough.
I’ve been told my team is the worst, that it’s the “pee stain” on the community or the Hufflepuff of the Pokémon universe (side note, there is NOTHING WRONG with being Hufflepuff, you guys are just mean). But even so, if there’s a rare Pokémon somewhere on campus, I can count on my fellow trainers to let me know.
These days, the Pokémon Go scene at GC is alive and well. Just recently, a group chat amongst my friends has sprung up and we check up on the raids happening on campus, among other things. More and more people get added every day.
The other day, a bunch of us teamed up to catch a legendary bird Pokémon. Some of us were even lucky enough to catch its rare shiny form.
And I am no longer the only Instinct amongst my friends.