My hand is finally healed after I broke it on New Years Day!  When you can only use two or three fingers on your dominant hand for two months you start to feel really limited in what you’re able to accomplish.  My rediscovered manual dexterity is probably directly related to why I’ve been feeling more intrepid lately.  And that’s probably why I stepped out of my comfort zone and went on a Pokemon adventure.

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When I last wrote about Pokemon Go the Valentine’s Day event was just starting and 2nd Generation Pokemon hadn’t yet been added in an update, but that’s when everything about the game changed for me.  I had always been a casual player, not power leveling and only occasionally going on dedicated Pokewalks in my quest to catch ’em all.  On one of my walks I discovered an Exeggcute nest in my neighborhood and I left a comment on thesilphroad.com describing it.  When I checked my post later I noticed a note written by one of the higher level players I’d seen in my local gyms encouraging me to join their channel on the Discord chat app.  Before long I was being welcomed by the guys who had been helping me keep those local gyms yellow.  And best of all, they introduced me to apps they’d been using to strategize gym takeovers and coordinate Pokemon hunts.  All of a sudden I knew which gyms I could easily drop into, and I had access to a feed of every rare and awesome Pokemon appearing in Seattle by neighborhood, with their exact location and time remaining.

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Now that I could target gyms with pinpoint accuracy I got my Pokemon in 10 gyms for the first time.  I didn’t even know that was the maximum because I’d never approached it.  I had the ability to drive directly to a specific spawn if anything epic popped up on the feed (2600 combat power Dragonite five minutes away? YES PLEASE).  I started building an army of respectable creatures instead of the crap barely viable stuff I’d been throwing in gyms.  The confidence boost led to me chatting more on Discord, and that’s when the gut check came – three of the guys invited me out on an excursion.

I’ve never been a big fan of meeting random people on the internet, with my wife being the obvious exception (love you sweetie!).  I agreed to meet at a nearby gym in my own car, and we caravaned from place to place while chatting via app.  But before long we were rolling down our windows to talk and I grew more comfortable.  They invited me to carpool, I agreed, and it was simultaneously like going through a portal into another level of nerddom that I barely knew existed and joining the mildest gang of all time.

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I had a certain expectation, but the guys I rode with are all like me – similar age and education, wives/steady girlfriends, normal jobs.  They’re all level 34 and I’m level 29, which sounds respectable until you realize that means they’ve each gained three times as much experience as I have over the lifetime of the game.  They also happen to be repositories of vast amounts of arcane Pokemon Go knowledge.  I found myself listening to conversations about the best move sets for attacking and defending on different Pokemon, STAB bonuses, and their favorite Pokemon for “prestiging” (leveling up) gyms.  I think I learned about as much on that car ride as I had in months of playing the game.  It seems obvious now but I hadn’t realized that you gain much more prestige when training with lower combat power Pokemon.  I had always tapped the opponent Pokemon when battling, but I was shown how much quicker and effective dodging attacks is when you tap your own creature instead.  I didn’t know it was possible to quadruple team to take down a level 10 enemy gym and prestige it up enough for everyone to drop a Pokemon inside in 15 minutes.

Time flew by as we told jokes and recounted stories of funny gym battles and awesome Pokemon that got away.  We walked to a pond in complete darkness, discovered a back route to a gym that we previously thought required much more hiking, and sped five miles to an obscure residential cul de sac to catch a high IV Larvitar before it disappeared (and watched and laughed as half a dozen other cars did exactly the same thing).  And even though I got in trouble for coming home at 1:30 in the morning, it was worth it, because thanks to our adventure I made three new friends.

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What are your best Pokemon stories?  I’d love to read them in the comments!

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