Oh hey Rattata
Last Wednesday I was the kind of person who sneered at gamers. By Thursday I was screaming ‘there’s a Squirtle on my Louis Vuitton bag.’ Friday I was late for work because I’d been trying to nail a Poliwag. And all weekend I’ve been mourning that Jigglypuff that got away outside Highgate Tube station. I've even been covertly playing it in the studio of the radio show I co-present on Saturdays - resulting in some slightly startled looks from my boss Frank Skinner. My life has changed irrevocably, and if you understand a word of this so has yours my fellow Pokemon Go addict. What can I say? We’re all in deep. Way deep.
Part of the strange ever-growing tribe of people wandering the streets clutching our phones and flicking balls at augmented reality characters that pop up suddenly in the chilled goods cabinet at Waitrose (true story). It’s the sort of mass unquestioning dependency that dictators dream of. Not to mention app makers - Pokemon Go is already bigger than Tinder and about to overtake Twitter.
Of course for every wild-eyed fan there are the meh brigade. You’ll see them pop on social media calling us losers from their couch (how absolutely dare you) and telling us to ‘get a life’ (bit ‘90s, love). But there’s a reason why the world has embraced this little game so manically that it’s caused the servers to repeatedly crash (that was a low point on Saturday, wasn’t it?)
And it’s because this is way more than just a game. It’s a shared global phenomenon that has brought people together. Like a Royal Wedding or watching Ronaldo get attacked by moths. When someone walked along the street staring at their phone last week the only option was to mutter angrily, ‘excuse ME’. This week you’ll find yourself shouting ‘Slowpoke by the Starbucks!’ I’ve had more conversations with strangers this week than a creep on social media - and not one of them was a builder telling me to ‘cheer up, it might never happen’.
Instead it was two 15-year-old boys shouting, ‘she got a Drowzee innit’, a large family asking for my advice on Pokestops (local points of interest where you go to stock up on supplies) and four thirtysomething professional men offering me advice on incense (the legal, Pokemon kind).
The whole thing feels like some fabulous Christmas day footballing armistice - students chatting with businessman, children rushing up to talk to city workers, and every pub in the country getting out the chalk to advertise Pokemon pub-crawls. It won’t last - but while it does, it’s like being part of some strangely wonderful international gang - with our very own language. And we’re getting more exercise than than Mo Farah after a double espresso.
If you’re late to the party don't panic - we welcome you with open arms - although we might be too busy trying to nail a Rhyhorn to actually say hi. Here are five things all newbies need to know…
1. Whilst virgin Pokemon Go players will squeal with excitement at any old creature, pros know that Rattata and Pidgeys are the basic bitches of our world. Collect them by all means, (they’ll come in useful later when you can evolve them) but don't lose a heel or any dignity over it.
2. When you get to Level 5 you’ll be asked to join a team. There are three - but only one worth joining - the blue one, Mystic. Think of it as the Ravenclaw of Pokemon - brains versus brawn. And choose wisely - like Eminem, you only get one shot.
3. You’ll see things called gyms - you can take over a gym from another player but be warned, you’ll need to have enough combat points up your sleeve to not make a total fool of yourself.
4. You’ll see lots of pink hearty flowery things floating around at certain points - these are lures, which a lot of bars and pubs are purchasing by the truckload in order to attract Pokemon customers. Buy some for your front garden and you might get lucky in attracting hot players.
5. Incubate your eggs - this way you get to grow your own super Pokemon. I gave birth to a Gastly at 9.12am this morning. And hang around water, there seem to be some super cool fish based types round there, oh hello Magikarp. But the best advice I can give you? Befriend a centennial teenager clued up in the ways of Pokemon Go. I’d advertise my godson Harvey, but I’m keeping his tips all to myself. Play nice out there.