Amongst the chaotic excitement of this weekend, which brought together communities from across the globe to celebrate the royal wedding and FA Cup Final, Saturday 19th May also saw the gathering of Pokémon Go fans for the Community Day Charmander event.
For those of who are utterly unfamiliar with the terms Pokémon Go and Charmander, I’ll do my best to clarify. Do my best, I stress, as I am a newbie to the Pokémon scene myself. Pokémon Go is an animated reality game played on smart phones and tablets via an app. The game, aired in 2016, is modelled on the Japanese fictional media franchise ‘Pokémon’ which, having originally appeared in the form of video games in 1996, has since appeared in the television, comic, trading card, and toy industries. The game features hundreds of fictional creatures, called Pokémon, which are scattered across the globe. Gamers then have the task of finding and catching these creatures using various items collected from pit stops, called Poké stops, and using their captured Pokémon to battle other players’.
Pokémon Go, unlike most other games well known for confining teenage boys to their bedrooms, is an interactive and equally active game which requires its players to venture outside in order to catch the creatures using a GPS style programme. The game has been praised by The Odyssey online for encouraging people to “go outside, to walk around, to exercise. Individuals have reported that the game has helped them handle anxiety and depression, forcing them to leave their homes to enjoy a game they’ve looked forward to for so long.”
So what was so special about this weekend for Pokémon Go enthusiasts? The 18th of May was one of the unique Community Day events hosted by the media franchise which enabled gamers to capture the typically rare Charmander Pokémon (resembling a small orange dinosaur) multiple times over a span of three hours. The event, which took place across the Globe, evoking particular waves of excitement across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India, resulted in millions of gamers amalgamating in parks all over, as this was the type of area said to have the most potential for players to raise their game status.
Whilst I have only had the game for just over a month, as prompted by my boyfriend who has been raving about the game since he first got it in 2016 and following its 2018 renovation, we opted to go to Regent’s Park, London, for the event due to its renowned popularity within the gaming community. We arrived at 9:57am, just 3 minutes before the event was due to begin, and were met by a scattering of other players eager to catch the Pokémon. Half an hour into the game was when I had my first insight into just how popular this game is. Turning the corner onto a large stretch of the park, which is usually easy to view end to end, was when we were met by hundreds of people diligently swiping their phone screens to gain as many items and creatures as they could.
One thing that struck, and quite pleasantly surprised me, about the atmosphere of this event was the range of people who has come together to be a part of the experience. There were people who had attended in couples, families, less abled players joined by their carers, and even large groups from town Facebook chats meeting for the first time. And even though seeing a fifty-year-old man and seven-year-old boy standing side by side on their devices trying to battle a legendary Pokémon at a Gym (the battling arena for Pokémon) was something to chuckle over, it was inevitably a tribute to the game. Those who would have been the original fans of the franchise at its origin in 1996, have a shared passion with the new generation.
One fan of the game @JackTHEstanley commented: “Pokémon Go is a game that has not only help me meet new people but it has given me something to look forward to every month with the monthly community day. This month’s special Pokémon was Charmander. Personally, this was the best community day so far because I caught a few shiny Charmanders and I evolved it into a shiny Charizard which by the way looks amazing. Overall community day is awesome for anyone who enjoys playing Pokémon and it’s a great opportunity to meet and make new friends.”
It was also interesting to see the reactions of the park’s regular visitors to this event; many shocked by the appearance of so many people at one time. I overheard one elderly couple enquire what one of the players was doing and were totally baffled by the response of “catching imaginary creatures”. But, of course, this game isn’t going to be for everyone.
The event was also a chance for gamers to catch Shiny Pokémon: a feature introduced to the game in March 2017. These creatures are particularly rare and can result in a different evolution from the ordinary Pokémon; a great addition for long-standing members of the game who already have a broad range of the usual types. The Shinnies were harder to find than normal Pokémon, but nevertheless evoked more excitement from players when they succeeded in catching them. So much that some groups of gamers would let out cheers when they did.
It was one of many events that have taken place so far this year, whilst there are also multiple others still in the line-up. I may not be the biggest fans of the game currently, but it certainly was an interesting experience that I’m pleased to have been a part of.
The app can be downloaded from any smart phone app store, whilst information about further events can be found at https://pokemongolive.com/en/events/.