Why I’m Leaving ‘Pokémon Go’
Goodbye to all that combat power
Sure, I’d been with others — I had been playing since the original Red and Blue were released in 1997, occasionally having dreams of reliving those carefree days of my youth just causing a scene on the Indigo Plateau with Mewtwo.
But after two decades of torrid relationships spent snapping Pokémon, entering them in beauty contests, and stuffing them in pinball machines, I lost interest in those others. Johto, Kanto, Sinnoh — they felt too small for me now. I knew there had to be a bigger, realer world out there, one that wasn’t so Black and White, 3DS. I left my first love behind in pursuit of what might be my greatest. Pokémon Go, I needed you like an Eevee needs a Thunderstone (to turn into Jolteon, obv).
The first time we played together was like finally catching a Pikachu in the Viridian Forest — damn it, I felt alive again after all these years. Even Rattatas and Pidgeys looked brand-new. I couldn’t get enough of them; even after I earned 25 candies and evolved a Raticate. “Go fuck yourself!” growled a stranger after I bumped right into him, looking down at my phone as I chased after a Bulbasaur. I just grinned; you had me as hooked as a Magikarp on an Old Rod.
I remember when I first encountered a 1000+ CP Pokémon in the wild. It was a Pinsir, and the park across from my apartment was suddenly like the Safari Zone with how many of those suckers were there. I didn’t know if I could do it, but you gave me confidence when I most needed it — like when I fought my first gym battle and didn’t feel one bit ashamed to lean against the side of that psychiatrist’s office with a half-dozen other trainers. It was crowded, but I didn’t care. I had the greatest game in the world.
But as beautiful as you were, you also had an ugly side. Even after I reached level 16, a CP 89 Weedle took ten Poké Balls to catch. My Pokédex increasingly looked like the Dexpages — a bunch of names I didn’t care about. But as Bob Dylan said, “behind every beautiful thing, there’s pain.” So I continued on my quest to be the very best, like no one ever was.
I traveled to Battery Park and Central Park, scouring every patch of tall grass in between. I knew each block of my neighborhood like the back of my hand. We’d developed a familiarity with each other that only comes with time, patience, and an abundance of Poké Balls. But eventually that intimacy began to fade. The Pidgeys, the Rattatas, the Doduos — dear god, the Doduos — I couldn’t bear to see their beady little eyes one more time. It began to feel just like it was with your predecessors now, and like a Charmander’s tail in the Cinnabar Island rain, I started to feel burned out.
You had turned me into someone I was not. Someone who wouldn’t stop switching into airplane mode until I could get you to properly detect my location. Someone so accustomed to Caterpie and Horsea that I’d miss my train just to catch a “rare” Nidoran♂. Walking down the street, I would pass complete strangers and find myself silently comparing myself to them — was that girl a gym leader? Did that guy just catch a Dragonite? When we first met, it all felt magical; now, it felt just like all the others before you. You had me in a Rattata race that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be in.
I changed. We had shared experiences together that I would truly never forget (remember when we found out the Eeveelutions changed based on their nicknames?), and maybe in some future update I’ll come back to you — but only to toss back a couple Razz Berries. What we had is gone. Pokémon mastery is dead.
Once we logged out for the last time, it was as though I had used Calm Mind. All the things I had started stressing about began to melt away like Muk down a drain. Though don’t get me wrong, Pokémon Go, I will think of you fondly whenever I see a pigeon or a rat and remember how in love we were when we caught our first Pidgey, our first Rattata. Nothing will ever change that. Not even Pokémon Sun and Moon.
Josh Fjelstad is a writer and creative director in New York.
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