This past week was perfectly summer – lazy days scrap-booking and gardening, an evening on the beach with Angel, home cooked dinners with Charming, and time to update my Summer Productivity List to give myself more to do… in a couple of days, anyway. For now, this week is Legendary week, and I’m coming out of the closet about more than smoking cloves.
Legendary. It’s the theme I coerced my yearbook kids into doing this past year. Think medieval knights, lords and ladies. Our staff interviewed kids to find out what had made this school year legendary and discover what the word meant to them. Teenagers associate legendary with pride and accomplishment. At Kecoughtan High, this yearbook was Legendary, helping us sell out and feel that high after seeing something to completion and finding in yourself a job well done.
That’s why I make these To Do lists in the summer time. The tasks aren’t legendary – fixing my bumper, reorganizing all storage locations, deep cleaning the shed – but they bolster a healthy link to a productive lifestyle. For my life to be legendary, there’d need to be little children inside waiting for Mama to tuck them in. Little creatures to invest in like my brother’s family.
That’s why I started playing Pokémon Go, actually. It was a welcomed distraction in lonely evenings, and a steady mental companion with sufficient tasks and goals to keep me playing during the dip in the winter months. We all have some hobby, and the more room for growth, the more incentive we find to motivate ourselves. While my uncle was golfing in sunny Florida, I was slow rolling through the cold streets of Downtown Hampton spinning Poké Stops, catching imaginary creatures, and investing in my character. Some devour news articles, read to their children, attend a weeknight service, or workout. I train. At Planet Fitness and at Pokemon Go gyms.
By spring, the occasional special event offering double points or double candy (a very, very good thing, like Doublemint gum) weren’t enough. A basic principle of the game is that trainers (players) train at gyms to glean rewards. There are three teams, three colors. We can virtually battle to take over and defend Poké gyms. I’d seen Truslyder in all the gyms near my house and concluded he must live near me. We were both on Team Valor, the red team. I made it my personal aim to get to Level 37 before Truslyder did. That had me playing strong almost until Italy.
Why am I blogging about an alternate reality game? What growth could there be in running a battery-draining app on my Android? The game came out a year ago, and as an Anniversary special, the developers released a couple of the Legendary Pokémon. Despite some serious tech glitches, the effect has clearly revitalized the game. The competition is strong. The game changed.
We all saw it coming. We’d been waiting for the legendaries. That’s why my students cited things like prom and graduation as their legendary moments from high school. They wait for it. They work for it. They are even willing to pay for it. Like those legendary memories, introducing the Legendaries to Pokemon Go requires Trainers to come together and play like the game originally intended.
One of the newer features of the game is raids with five levels of difficulty. You go to a Poké Gym which is located on an actual location in Downtown Hampton, for example. If you’re on your own, you can take on a Level 2 raid maybe, but for the harder ones with better possible rewards and stronger Pokémon to catch after the battle, you need other people.
This weekend, I told Charming I wanted to find Truslyder, maybe put up a poster at the library gym that said, “Do you want to be my raid battle buddy?” and sign it Joycraft4. My avatar looks like Charming, so I assume anyone who still played enough to know my Trainer would think I was a guy. Not a very effective strategy, though. But I had a lot of respect for the guy. Not only did he catch up to my level in just a month, but he disappeared for a couple of weeks in the spring and then, suddenly, Truslyder had Pokémon from all the different regions in the gyms around our house.
You have to go to the places to get them. Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America. I was envious. Seriously. Then I went to Italy, and I didn’t play the game for a couple weeks. I lived. I experienced. I socialized. I drank coffee with locals. I came back, and I didn’t really care about Pokémon Go so much… until the Legendaries were released. I’ll admit, I was new to the game in September, so I don’t really know what a Legendary is. I just know everyone wants them. They are rare. The developers made us wait a year for a shot at just a few of them. Then, they go and multiply rewards, too?
Battling a Legendary isn’t easy. The game suggests a group of twenty actual, real live people convene at the same location during the same time window and choose a team of six virtual creatures to battle the Legendary bird, like a Lugia or Articuna, in order to defeat it for a chance to then catch it like you would a Pokémon in the wild, just with really decreased odds.
Charming and I wound up in Fort Monroe on Saturday night and battled a Tyranitar with a handful of other locals the game had brought out to the waterside. One invited me to a Facebook group for players in the area. Sunday afternoon, word was out that Legendaries were available, and Charming and I followed a lead in the group chat that led us to a stream of raids, caravan style.
It was incredible. Dozens of people would pull into parking lots empty only moments before. They’d pour out of their cars and leaders would emerge like Steven, clearly respected and obeyed, who arrived with a trunk full of cold water for anybody there. It was incredible. We fought together. We won rewards. Some of us caught the Legendaries after, most of us didn’t. So we’d keep driving to the next raid spot, battling together, and trying again.
I caught my first Lugia and my first Articuno, so I was just in it for the fun after that. Monday was the last day of the special event, Charming was working, and I wasn’t intending to play. I was running errands in Peninsula Town Center and ran into a group battling an Articuno there. I was hooked. At the next raid, I finally met Truslyder. We live two blocks apart. We work out at the same gym. I saw a post on his Facebook page from the same run Charming and I did two weekends ago, Night Run Nation.
That was a pretty epic scene for me, on Mallory St. in Phoebus, meeting my longtime mental competitor. By today, I’d established a three day streak of teamwork with Kapnkurch as well. The three of us hit a couple more raids together this afternoon… because Pokémon Go continued the events a couple more days. And we thought we had our lives back last night. Kapnkurch has been teaching me how to make Curve Balls and Excellent Throws to improve my chances of catching the Legendaries.
I think I’m at a twenty percent catch rate. Catching a Legendary is the hardest part. The odds are against you. You have to fight and invest, and you have to want that thing more than the obstacles in your way. The Legendary is often elusive, but you gained rewards from fighting with your teammates despite living with the one that got away.
I can write about Pokémon in a blog about growth because I saw my world get bigger and smaller at the same time this week. I totally geeked out. I gave in to that part of myself that enjoys riding the highs of exciting accomplishments, and the environment was enhanced by the energy of countless other humans enjoying your same, exact pursuit. I met people like Truslyder who loves to travel. We were in the Milan airport just weeks apart. I met people like Kapnkurch who reminds me of my old friend Josiah back on Geek Squad in college, incredibly smart with an equal patience for my endless questions.
When I was throwing raspberries and balls at the Lugia, I saw my picture of a Legendary life. The one with a husband and children of our own in a house we made a home together. That picture has been on my radar a lot longer than this one year anniversary event was for Pokémon trainers. They came out in droves to catch a dream. They didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to get something Legendary.
I didn’t even really know why I was out in the heat catching this Legendary thing only that it had become so big in my mind. Like my picture of a family, a decades old pursuit, an elusive happy ending unfit for the annals of fairy tale literature. Only in this battle, I’m on my own. I’m fighting one on one, throwing hope and faith at a Legendary future knowing full well my efforts will only go as far as the animations and coded odds will allow.
The most legendary moment for me in the last week wasn’t catching a creature at all. It was getting out in the real world and seeing the product of social media to organize raid teams and conquer the peninsula game. It’s been fun to be a part of something bigger than myself, which is what my legendary dream is all about, after all.
There’s this moment after you defeated the raid boss and you’re staring at this moving, diving, flying bird, almost praying you’ve thrown the right ball to catch him. It’s the moment when you’re on the last ball. We trainers have a theory that it’s impossible to catch a Legendary Pokémon on your last attempt. You know you’re going to fail, but you throw it anyway.
Then you move on to the next raid, the next chance. Battling a Legendary isn’t easy, but you do that in a team. I’ve had a lot of support on my journey toward a future where I would make a great wife and mother, but catching the Legendary… that’s the hard part; it’s the part you do on your own, and alone, the odds rarely seem in your favor.