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Mobile Game of the Year 2020: Pokemon Go

Introduction

A few years go, right after Pokemon Go released, like many people I became obsessed. At the time, all the game involved was walking around and catching Pokemon. That was enough for me. I walked around and I caught Pokemon. Eggs hatched. I waited patiently for the inevitable updates that allowed gyms, trainer battles, and trading. Taking the warnings seriously, I never drove and Pokemon Goed (Pokemon Went?) Several years later, I’m obsessed again. Pokemon Go is my choice for Mobile Game of the Year 2020.

If I was ever stupid enough to do this, I’m positive that this is how I would die.

What brought Pokemon Go back into my life? Well, as with many things when you are a parent, my kids started playing the game. They received phones for Christmas last year. Additionally, due to the Covid restrictions, Liam developed a walking habit. Like me, he figured if he was going to walk anyway, why not hatch some eggs and evolve some Pokemon.

I heard the boys talking about Pokemon Go, so I loaded up the game one day. Then, we all discussed the game on the beach one day during Seedot community day in the spring. This common interest lasted until Aiden’s phone broke a couple of months ago. Then my phone dies. I stopped playing any mobile games, including Pokemon Go. Honestly, I miss this game the most out of all of them. Why? Until that last word, I had no idea how to structure this article. Now I know. Though I usually hate top lists, I will do a top 5 reasons Pokemon Go is my mobile game of the year 2020.

5 Reasons Pokemon Go is the Mobile Game of the Year 2020

Note: I went from being almost week ahead to a couple of days behind my deadlines for no particular reason.

#5 Exploration – Unlike Geocaching all those years ago, I won’t go so far as to say that Pokemon Go has caused me to explore new places. However, whenever I was in a new place, I opened the game to see what new and interesting Pokemon might be offered there. That has led to some “Oh, wow! Look at that!” moments between me and the boys.

#4 Exercise – I will go as far as to say that Pokemon Go has inspired me to exercise more. Okay, maybe exercise is a stretch. But, I did start the summer only walking far enough to get one candy per day. Eventually, I extended that walk until I was getting multiple candies per day. For the uninitiated, that means I went from a roughly two mile walk to 7 or 8 miles. I think I even extended it out to 10 miles right at the end of summer.

#3 Updates – When I stopped playing Pokemon Go, I called it a boring game without much going for it. Basically all you could do was walk around and catch Pokemon. While fun, the novelty wore off very quickly. When I came back this year, it was like a whole new game. You could battle in gyms and trade between trainers. There were daily and weekly quests. Niantic added events that ran at least once a month. Community days featured a specific Pokemon, allowing you to evolve it if you dedicated some time. All in all, the game is fun. And, this time, the novelty hasn’t worn off.

#2 New Pokemon – While this could easily fall under the previous category, it is strong enough for me to consider on its own merits. Admittedly, I don’t play Pokemon much these days. I played through Shield a little bit last year. However, several times over the summer, I said, “What Pokemon is that? That thing is cool!” As I mentioned, that alone isn’t enough. With the rest of the updates, though, it makes for a stronger experience.

#1 My Kids Played It – Liam has been walking every day. Not all of that is due to Pokemon Go. Much of it is, though. Even Aiden, who often doesn’t have the attention span for a game like Pokemon Go loaded it on a daily basis. He’s in the same boat as I am with a busted phone, so we’re both out of commission. Hopefully that will change after Christmas and we can get back to catching ’em all.

The Verdict

I played more mobile games this year than at any other time in my life. Heck, I played more mobile games this year than any other type of game. The end of the year is seeing a resurgence in PC and console gaming (as you will see in next week’s articles). However, 2020 was the year for mobile here at 2 Guys Gaming. One game, above them all, reigned supreme and that game was Pokemon Go. I can’t wait to get my new phone and get back out there.

Pokemon Go Summer 2020

Introduction

What have I been doing in Pokemon GO Summer 2020? Well, first an explanation. We took an unintended break for a couple of days. I meant to post this on Saturday, but then we were on a last vacation of summer over the weekend. Then, if I’m being perfectly honest, I forgot about my plans for the page for this week. I was going to do DOOM this week and I think Nintendo next week for our retro week.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Yes, that’s an inkjet printer.

I swear that I didn’t just mention DOOM so that I could share the inkjet printer running the game again. Okay, it wasn’t the only reason. The point is that I haven’t prepared properly to write about DOOM this week, so I’m pushing it back to next week and talking about Nintendo this week.

Yes, Pokemon GO isn’t strictly retro. However, the source material certainly is. I remember when I was first introduced to Pokemon. I was working at K-Mart and a woman inquired about the game. Having heard a news report, I diligently repeated back to her what I had heard about the “Pocket Monsters”. A few weeks later, I bought Pokemon Red for my original GameBoy. Yes, I’m intentionally leaving dates out, but those subtle clues should lead you in the right direction. Nevertheless, let’s see what’s up with Pokemon Go Summer 2020.

Why now?

That’s a valid question. We haven’t talked about Pokemon GO on the page in over 3 years. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did do a quick update article in June. It might have been under the same circumstances as this one. I should also probably read that article to make sure that I’m not just repeating myself. Okay, that article was a review, so there’s no chance of a repeat. Now, let’s answer the question.

But, those of you who are regulars at the page know that isn’t always as simple as I just made it sound. Oftentimes, answering a question means meandering from topic to topic before I actually give a succinct answer. So, meander with me. Part of the reason that I forgot about the web page was that I’ve been working on another of my recent hobbies.

A few years ago, I learned about microprocessors and I saw that I could get an Arduino board and some components for a good price. I did a few of the projects from the book, but life got in the way and it’s too easy for me to make excuses to not do anything, so I ignored them for a while. Aiden had taken his out (because I bought one for him and Liam) and that inspired me to mess with mine again. I asked Aiden to join me, but he and Liam have been battling it out in Pokemon X and Y for the last few days.

Well, something reminded me that I was going to write about DOOM this week on the web page. Simultaneously, I remembered the stories that I had been writing up until last week. I have too many hobbies and not enough discipline to plan accordingly. So, to answer the question. It’s now because I forgot and then I remembered.

What’s Changed in 2 Months?

In all honesty, nothing. I’m not sure why I planned this article for the weekend. Maybe I just forgot that I had written the review in June. Oh well. I need to get back in to the practice of writing and this article will help with that.

So, what’s happened? They tried a virtual Pokemon GO Fest. I wasn’t able to get the full experience because we were on vacation. Something went wrong and they did a do over. Again, I wasn’t able to partake because we were on vacation. Other than that, I finally got 50 km walked in a week and the game is still keeping me entertained on a daily basis. Get out there and join me

Pokemon Go June 2020

Introduction

I’m back to playing Pokemon Go in June 2020. I started playing when it first released and then got bored. It was an unfinished product, there were many bugs and exploits, and nobody else I knew really played it. I’ve checked back in with the game periodically over the last few years, but never got back into it completely.

Well, that changed a couple of weeks ago. I noticed that my older sons were playing the game. There was also a community day around Seedot where the appearance rate of the Pokemon was increased. There was also an increased chance of shiny. Aiden got like 4 of them that day. Liam grabbed one or two. I…got zero, of course. Nevertheless, I had so much fun that I’ve been playing Pokemon Go again daily.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did take an unintended week long break. Other than that week, though, I’m back into the game in a big way. In case you’re not entirely sure what Pokemon Go is (and if you’re here, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t), it is a mobile game that allows you to catch Pokemon in the “real world”. You can also hatch eggs, defend gyms, and complete quests. It’s not exactly Pokemon, but it’s pretty dang close.

It does have an AR function, too, but I don’t use it much.

The Great

I’ve already gone into this in the introduction. You walk around and you catch Pokemon. As you walk, you can incubate and hatch eggs to get more Pokemon. Various tourist destinations are Gyms or Pokestops where you can fight to control the gym or receive items to help you in your journey. A professor approaches you periodically to offer quests for experience and loot. It’s not exactly a Pokemon game in real life, but with every addition it gets closer and closer.

The Good

Whereas Pokemon is traditionally a 1 player game, Pokemon Go really requires you to have an active social life to truly appreciate the game. Many of the raids require several players. Your friends can send you gifts for more items to help you level and level your Pokemon. This is partially me being a socially anxious person who lives in a small town. However, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing a big part of the game.

The Decent

As a follow up to the previous post, certain Pokemon are only active in certain parts of the world. There have been spoofing programs that people used to “travel” to get some of the more rare Pokemon. Thankfully, Niantic and Nintendo worked to ban people who did that. However, I can understand the frustration at having to travel across the world simply to find a digital monster. Sure you could trade people. But, see above.

I don’t think that all of these are region specific anymore or maybe the regions change. Still, it’s one of those details I wish the developers would have ignored.

The Verdict

Pokemon Go in June 2020 has me walking more. It gives me another topic of conversation with my two older kids. My youngest son has also expressed an interest in playing. It’s a fun diversion. That’s all I ask from games lately. Will it entertain me and let me forget for a little bit about everything else?

This Little Pika Went to the Gym

Introduction

Well, a day of substitute teaching and the college championship game were enough to distract me from posting anything to either page yesterday.A� Therefore, I have to be extra dilligent about making sure that I start my daily posts again today.A� I realize that I won’t be able to update the page daily when I go back to work in a week and a half.A� However, if I make that the goal now, when I am teaching again, 2-3 updates per week wont’ feel so cumbersome.

I’ve done a couple of articles about Pokemon Go in the past.A� Like most other pages, I wrote about the improbable, unbelievable, and almost inexplicable initial success and then the inevitable crash of the game.A� Since then, I have played the game on a semi-regular basis.A� Quinn wanted to do his little kid podcast about Pokemon this week, so I thought this is as good a time as any to revisit the game.

The Good

When the game first released, there were words upon words to create paragraphs and pages (if pages still existed in their traditional form in our digital world) about the exercise benefits of the game.A� It inspired people to get out into the outside world by leading them to new or possibly previously unexplored places.A� Gyms gave important items like potions and eggs.A� In order to hatch the eggs, you needed to walk 2, 5, or 10k.

The phenomenon was so ubiquitous that it married an established meme and had little meme babies.

Any time you went to a new place, you opened up the app to see what new types of Pokemon might be available in that area.A� We went to the beach and I remember being excited when I saw and caught my first Staryu.A� After the beach, we went to a restaurant and Quinn and I had way too much fun taking pictures of Pokemon on our food plates.A� Just as unlikely as getting people to go outside and exercise, Pokemon Go got them to interact socially.

In addition to taking those pictures and posting them online, you could always recognize another Pokemon Go player.A� I know that we aren’t supposed to stereotype, but anytime you saw someone who was just a bit too pale for the time of year and they were looking at their phone, there was a good chance that they were playing Pokemon Go.A� At the beginning, all you could do was tip your hoodie to them, trade war stories, and maybe contact information depending on how brave you felt.A� Niantic promised other ways to interact, but they were slow in implementing them.

It doesn’t make it any better, but this is always the reaction to new and interesting things. “Wow, this thing is very interesting! You should check it out!” *later* “God, I liked this thing so much better when there weren’t so many people interested in it.”

One of the ways that have finally been brought into the game that have allowed people to get together and be social is raids.A� The only experience I have with raids is that it looked like one was going on during our trip to the aquarium in Woods Hole, someone posted something on Facebook about one happening in town in an attempt to get a group (but it never happened) and I foolishly tried to solo one that was happening down the street.A� I didn’t get a chance to try the raid while on the Cape for a couple of reasons, but I wish I had just taken the time to check it out.A� Living in a small town without many tech or gaming savvy people strikes again as I haven’t gotten an opportunity like that since.

The Bad

Because of the community aspect of raiding, as I just mentioned, I don’t get any chances to experience what is now a fundamental part of the game.A� As a result, I’m stuck playing the game as it was released.A� Walking down the street to the local Wal*Mart, I keep an eye out for Pokemon and hope that 10k egg hatches into something interesting or fun.A� Look, I’m not one to needless complain about something and I hope that’s not what this sounds like.A� I mean, I am complaining (and it may be needless because there are ways to combat the isolation), but I also think I have a valid point.

Okay, okay. I get the point. At least I’ll hatch a ton of eggs.

Because, other than the raids, there aren’t a ton of new features.A� I think I saw something about weather effects determining Pokemon spawns and there are new Pokemon, which I said earlier is one of the most fun parts of the game (and in fact the reason that the games exists), but some of the most anticipated features have not been included in the game.A� There are no trainer battles.A� There is no trading of Pokemon.A� Those, too, are integral to the games and need to be a part of this game for it to ever be considered in the same league as the other games.

The Ugly

I did an article about Mario Run before Thanksgiving.A� That is another Nintendo property that has made the move to mobile.A� I enjoy that game quite a bit and a major reason why is that Nintendo hasn’t given into the real money pressure that mobile puts on developers.A� Most mobile games give you the full game, but to get the full experience, players quickly realize that they have to pay real money for items or experience.A� Mario Run has none of that and it is a refreshing oasis in the salty sea of P2E (Pay to Exist) of the rest of the mobile gaming library.

I was careful earlier to call Mario Run a Nintendo property.A� Nintendo owns that one and they developed the game.A� However, Pokemon Go is a Nintendo property, but Niantic has made the actual game.A� That was important in the article that I wrote about Pokemon Go user base crashing once people realized just how limited the game was and it was even worse than now.A� I said then that the game felt like a beta test that somehow made it to release.A� That’s not the ugly anymore.A� The game still feels unfinished, but it’s getting better.

My main complaint about the game is that Niantic has embraced the real money trend that I dislike so much.A� They aren’t pushing it as much as other games.A� It isn’t necessary to buy things to advance in the game.A� However, I have noticed that when I logged in a few times or checked out the webpage or social media for the game, they’ve been testing the waters a bit with taking that route.

99 cents to win the game? What is the objective of the game? To remove the ads?

The Verdict

Look, I get that game companies need to make money.A� I also get that this is the environment that mobile games have grown up in and that it is harder to get people to pay money up front for games that are so simple that they can fit on your phone.A� However, phones are getting more powerful and some of the games are more interesting and have as good or better gameplay than their console counterparts.A� It only takes one success before others start to attempt to mimic that success.A� If Pokemon Go can just resist the P2W siren song and start to build back up its user base, maybe it can lead to a new era in mobile gaming.

That’s certainly not going to happen if they don’t implement those features that are missing.A� Since the early announcement that they were thinking/considering/dreaming of possibly thinking about maybe putting together a committee that might introduce trading and trainer battles to the game I have not heard any more discussion along those lines.A� It’s probably tough to make them happen, but it would be nice to get an update about the possible update.A� Oh well, I will just continue to try to find funny pictures to post on our Instagram and get excited every time that new Pokemon type pops up on the screen when I open the app.

Pokemon Going, Going, Gone?

Like most people, I got caught up in the initial hype about Pokemon Go. I have a text chain between me and Chris that goes on for several days about how addictive the game is. Articles were written illustrating how Nintendo and Niantic were able to do what doctors, politicians, and parents all over America could not. They got people to go outside and voluntarily walk. Pokemon Go was heralded as the new must have “it” app for fitness and recreation. Nintendo’s stock rose significantly until they reminded people that they had little to nothing to do with the app or its success.

You might argue for the case of modesty or stupidity on Nintendo’s part. Initially, I thought the move was stupid. The more I thought about it, though, I realized that it might be a misguided attempt to avoid litigation or fines. Why they might face fines, I can’t explain, and it sounds silly now. But, sometimes the rules and regulations of the finance industry confuse and enrage me. I suspect that corporations and their lawyers feel the same way and that’s how we ended up with America, Inc’s first CEO.

I mean, seriously, these guys might be totally reasonable and actually believe that they are doing what’s best for people. But, they always look like every bully bad guy from every 1980s movie.

I now realize that they most likely just wanted to distance themselves from the app due to the inevitable backlash. Because, just as quickly and easily as they hooked people on the basic concept of Pokemon in real life, they saw their user base shrink to only a fraction of its peak. As is often the case with the internet, some of the hate was ridiculous. People worried that Nintendo (again, not involved in the project in any significant way) was collecting all of the map and camera data from users and storing it on a server. What they’d then do with that data was never explicitly defined as far as I know. But, so goes all such paranoid conspiracy theories. Others just hated it because it was popular and they think that all it takes to be cool and edgy is to hate things that are popular.

After the initial buzz wore off, I started to realize what others realized. Like so many games that are released these days, Pokemon Go started to feel more like an open beta than a finished game. Not one to use Twitter very much, I even sent out a tweet about it a few months ago. Once you get beyond the coolness factor of “gotta catch em all” and taking funny pictures of Pokemon on your friends butt, what is there? The “game” is little more than a glorified combination fit bit/snapchat filter app. There’s just not enough to keep me coming back right now.

Some of the pictures that you can get, though, are pretty funny.

But, you might argue, Nintendo has never been one to shy away from unfinished products or shovelware. While that may be true, more often than not, those games were 3rd party games and Nintendo was able to distance themselves from the trainwreck. Besides, there’s enough fan boys like me who will forgive almost anything if there’s a new Zelda, Mario, and/or Metroid.

Pokemon is different. As evidenced by the stock price episode, Pokemon is as recognizable as a Nintendo franchise as their big 3. It isn’t quite popular enough to warrant inclusion and expand to the “Big 4” since it has been more of a niche game than the other three. Pokemon Go started to change that some. People that I’d have never considered as Pokemon fans started playing this game. Pokemon was on the “it” list.

Plus, the partnership between Nintendo and Game Freak has been mutually beneficial. No reason to potentially damage that with some half baked app that may or may not prove to have staying power. Better to let it sing or swim and let Niantic deal with the fall out of this one. That’s my current half baked theory, at least. We’ll see if there’s any merit to it.

Any half baked idea I come up with won’t be even half as tasty as this one.

Even so, none of that explains why they would take that stance. In other words, what are the problems with Pokemon Go? Well, I’ve already explained that it feels unfinished. Again, that’s not unusual. In this day and age of digital gaming and endless patches, more often than not games are released missing content. Blizzard is one of the companies that is notorious for this. Look, I know that we like to have fun at the expense of Blizzard around here, but I promise that this isn’t piling on. Inevitably, every WoW expansion gets numerous patches. It’s gotten to the point where the patches have themes and even names. It’s not a but, it’s a feature.

While I don’t necessarily like this brave new world, it is our reality and, frankly, how we need to judge some games. What level of incomplete are you willing to tolerate in a game? It seems as if the answer to that question changes over time. I used to forgive Blizzard for their incomplete releases and routine patches. Heck, I even remember that I sold that feature when explaining the game to people. “They give you all of this additional content in the form of regular patches for no additional charge!”

Apparently, the named patches have been a thing since the beginning. I only started noticing the names later in my WoW career.

That was certainly not my attitude about Pokemon Go. I greeted their announcement of updates of the game with cynicism and skepticism. As it turns out, my reaction was warranted. While Niantic talked a good game about introducing some of the more desired features (most notably trainer battles), it has taken them two updates simply to introduce “buddy” Pokemon and generation 2.

Look, I never give up on a game that I think might have potential. I’m flawed that way. Also, as far as I know, there isn’t a template for releasing this type of game. Maybe the missing features take a massive amount of testing before being rolled out. Whatever the case, I don’t think that I will be a regular in the game until those features are implemented. I suspect that many others feel the same.