The week before Pokémon Go came out was awful

This article about Pokémon Go first appeared on the old in July 2016. We’ve brought it back, with out-of-date references intact to celebrate the game’s fifth anniversary.

Pokémon Go has only been out for a few days, but it already feels like an eternity.

And yet, it’s only technically released in three countries – Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Canada was not among them. And so, I legally cannot play it. Here is my story.

Whoa, wait, what is Pokémon Go?

Unbelievable. How could you not know? Even non-nerd news sources are reporting on it (including in some cases how to play it in countries where it’s not technically released). Well, thank you for making my blog your primary news source, I guess.

Anyway, it’s an augmented reality game. Using your phone’s camera, the game allows you to see Pokémon and catch them. Then you can train them. Or so I’m told …

Outside looking in

Imagine all your friends came up with an inside joke one day when you weren’t around and now they constantly bring it up on social media, at work, while you’re hanging out with them, and every other time of day without ever explaining it to you. Now imagine they let millions of strangers from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand in on the joke, but still not you. That is how I feel right now.

Look, I read an article before going to bed a couple of nights ago about Android viruses. They don’t work the same as computer viruses. You usually get them by side-loading apps onto your phone. Inconveniently, that’s exactly how you’re supposed to acquire the damn game if you have an Android phone. (It’s much easier on an iPhone – all you have to do is make a fake account and set the country to the United States.)

I had a nightmare about it, okay? I’m not about to go down that path. And I heard they’re cracking down on illegal users anyway, so I’d rather not risk it.

Once again, following the law has alienated me from all my friends. It’s like being back in high school. Except in high school, I pretended I was too cool for Pokémon. Now Pokémon is too cool for me.

The other day I was in a café on my phone, as usual. Someone came up to me and asked if I was using Pokémon Go too. I wasn’t. I told them so. Their disappointment in me shot to their face immediately. I don’t think they even said anything as they turned around and literally left the café. Were they so disgusted with me that they didn’t bother to finish their drink? I have no idea.

Other people, similarly disgusted, were staring at me like “who is this asshole who thinks he’s too good for Pokémon Go?” I too had to leave. I don’t know if I can ever go back.

Gary was here, Pat is a loser

A screenshot from Pokémon Go in July 2016. Nearly every Pokéstop in sight has a lure going.
This was downtown Toronto in late July 2016 when I was on my way to work. It was difficult to not skip work, that’s for sure! This was taken long after this article was written, but I thought readers would get a kick out of it anyway.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Pokémon. I’m following news of Sun and Moon as often as I can, I’m keeping up to date with the mythical Pokémon releases, I’m collecting the cards, and I’m working on a few Poké-related posts for this site. It hurts – a lot – to be left out of something so huge.

At work, some of my colleagues were discussing Pokémon. I wanted to join in, but you can guess what specific part of the Pokémon world they were discussing. Some of them mentioned they weren’t really fans growing up, but Pokémon Go got them into the series. What a beautiful moment! And yet it’s one I can have no part of. I sat there silently and kept working. It’s the only Pokémon conversation I’ve witnessed and not joined.

Feeling left out, I decided to play Pokémon Alpha Sapphire, one of the most recently released games in the main series. But I’ve already spent so much time playing that game that there’s nothing left to do. I put it down after a few minutes.

I find it hard to use social media these days. Everyone I know is either posting about their experience in the game or linking to articles about it. Well, except the people who are posting about how they don’t care about Pokémon, but that’s not a crowd I want to run with. Presumably, everyone like me is also avoiding the internet at the moment. And cafés. And the outside world.

I caved and downloaded Pokémon Go

I couldn’t take it. So, I found another way to get it on an Android phone. You can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network – essentially a program that makes it look like you’re using the internet from another country), create a fake American account, and download the app. I did. I named myself “PremiumContent” and I decided to start exploring.

For my first Pokémon, I chose Bulbasaur. I caught a Gastly and a Drowzee and I reached level 2! Then, I decided to sleep on my achievements and continue the adventure tomorrow.

I thought I was about to play the game, but I only played myself. One of the times I used the app I guess I forgot to turn my VPN on. They got me: They suspended my account. Probably because I logged in from Fullerton, California, and Toronto, Ontario, on the same day within only a couple of hours. No doubt that raised a red flag.

In most illicit activities, getting a criminal record for partaking in them can be something of a badge of honour among other delinquents. I figured this would hold for Pokémon Go. Unfortunately, this is not the case. No one was impressed, and few people even pitied me. They kept playing, in Toronto, somehow evading the watchdogs.

I arrived in this prison cell by my own hand. It isolates me from society but cruelly lets me continue to move through it, like a ghost.

Life without Pokémon Go is awful.

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