Pokemon Go recaptures attention of Maryville residents

September 13, 2017
9-7-17 Pokemon Go Resurgence

Various members of the Maryville community gathered at the Citizen’s Bank and Trust softball field at Donaldson Westside Park to play the mobile game Pokemon Go. Almost one year after the game was launched to mobile phone app stores, publisher Niantic introduced multiplayer battles to catch higher-level Pokemon.

While Pokemon Go was the most popular mobile application in the summer of 2016, it didn’t take long for players to start leaving for other, more immersive apps.

Pokemon Go was released in July 2016 by developer Niantic. People around the world, and right here in Maryville, brought up on the original trading card game and handheld video game series ventured into the world to “catch ’em all.” The goal of the game is become the best Pokemon trainer in the world, just like the original game’s protagonist, Ash Ketchum.

In addition to picking real-world locations for the creatures, Niantic mapped out points of interest around the world and created PokeStops (where players can spin a photo disc and get in-game content) or Pokemon Gyms (where trainers of a certain team can place their strongest Pokemon to defend in the name of their team).

In Maryville, some of the gyms include “First House,” which is near the A&G rear parking lot, the Bell Tower on campus, and Bearcat Stadium.

But after a few months, the game started to lose some of its initial popularity and nostalgia factor. The culprit is quite simple according to Maryville resident Inaki Irisarri: The traditional video game “grind” style doesn’t work too well for too long.

“We (Irissari and his friend, Dennis Gatewood) played a lot in the beginning, but slowly, we started to play less and less,” Irisarri said. “I eventually stopped playing it altogether.”

“Grinding,” when it comes to video game culture, refers to the act of doing the same things over and over again to get a desired result. In this case, players had to catch a certain number of Pokemon in order to obtain enough materials to evolve that Pokemon into a stronger one.

“It wasn’t exciting anymore. You just kept catching the same things over and over again to get enough candy to evolve your Pokemon, and it got boring,” said Iriarri.

Irisarri and Gatewood are part of Team Mystic.

Auston Huerta, another Maryville resident and member of the Team Valor, experienced a similar slump in his playing.

“I got bored after awhile,” Huerta said. “There was a lot of grinding involved.”

Over the winter, players around the world began to turn away from the mobile application in droves, with only a relative few sticking around to defend gyms and evolve stronger Pokemon. Even when the game released a “second generation” of Pokemon, players still weren’t logging in.

Just after the first anniversary of the game’s release, however, things changed. Niantic announced the concept of raids, multiplayer battles that would take place in Pokemon gyms around the world, which would come with better rewards.

Soon after that announcement came another one: Pokemon who were classified as “Legendary” would be released in the raids. As if drawn by a trance, Irisarri, Gatewood, and Huerta all logged back in.

“That was what we were waiting on for the longest time,” Huerta said. “When they announced raids and said that legendaries would be introduced that way, I started playing again.

“Raids also added the ability to work together … with people on other teams to take down big Pokemon. It makes the game more social, but in some cases less accessible because, for the larger raids, you have to rely on others and hope they spawn at a good time for a lot of people to come.”

That inter-reliance is on display throughout Maryville at various times in the day, as members of Team Valor, Team Mystic, and a third Team Instinct come together to take down and catch Pokemon. The camaraderie is present as well; as they fight, they occasionally shout encouragement at one another, and those who catch the creature at the end of the raid are congratulated.


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