Right now I should be in Liverpool, walking around a massive park with thousands of other Pokémon Go-ers, but instead I’m in my kitchen.
It’s a relatively decent-sized kitchen – that’s according to Digital Foundry’s John Linneman, who had a peek as we compared home working setups yesterday. But, as roomy as it is, it’s not designed for playing Pokémon Go. And, more to the point, Pokémon Go isn’t designed for it.
And yet here we are. I’m not in Liverpool, and neither are the tens of thousands of other fans who had tickets. And it’s unlikely any of us will be in the near future. So while Pokémon Go’s Liverpool Safari Zone – like all of developer Niantic’s physical events – is postponed rather than outright cancelled, ticket holders have been given this bonus remote-only version to tide us over until our proper day in the Merseyside sun.
It’s important to note this is a bit of a bonus because, well, there’s just no way it can ever live up to the real thing. As adequately-sized as John thought my kitchen was, it is no replacement for being in the festival-like atmosphere of these events in person, where you meet with fellow fans from all over the world. I had plans to travel and play with friends, stay the weekend and turn it into a bit of a roadtrip. Well, at least we don’t need to work out petrol money.
Instead, anyone with a ticket can log in during their previously-allotted hours and get the event’s rare Pokémon spawns wherever they are, with a set of simple tasks which award plenty of balls to keep you playing. The all-important Shiny versions of Pokémon are readily available on the event’s generous rate, alongside the usually New Zealand exclusive Relicanth, event exclusive Unown and new Pikachu wearing a safari hat.
As you might expect, playing from home, it is slower going. I don’t have a garden. I do have a PokéStop in range, though really the game’s supercharged lockdown-era Incense item has done most of the work for me. I’ve clocked far fewer shinies per hour than if I was walking around, but I have picked up at least one of every species that has been featured.
It’s not been perfect. There was some confusion the event’s timings had suddenly shifted one hour later, as shown on people’s tickets, but it looks like Niantic calculated daylight savings wrong. (Saturday and Sunday people, you start 10am Early Entry, or midday for everyone else.) And Niantic has also had to scramble to unpick an event clash on Sunday, as it works to give everyone else something to do this weekend in-game.
As ever, my favourite part of this event has been my interactions with others playing, even if in a different way than usual. All day I’ve had one eye on my phone, and the other on the chat window I have open with the friends I was planning to travel to Liverpool with. We’re all at home, clicking on things, doing the same. We’re cheering each other on, comparing what we’ve caught and making Pokémon puns about the Beatles. (Lucy in the Sky with Dialga? Octillery’s Garden?) We’re making the best of right now, then, which is all everyone else can do too.