I think it was when I caught my 50th – no, my 60th – Gyarados in a row that I hesitated for a moment and thought, “Actually, this isn’t very fun anymore.” I was wandering along the boardwalk at Santa Monica Pier, hurling Poke Balls at every weird and magical creature that came within a kilometre of me, determined to catch ‘em all, once and for all.
Or at least that’s what Pokemon Go thought I was doing. In reality, I was sat in my kitchen in Dublin, Ireland, wearing a dressing gown that was slightly too small for me and sculling my fifth consecutive can of warm beer. “Haha!” I cackled to myself. “I have beaten the system!” Little did I know, my victory was to be frustratingly short-lived.
I first started playing Pokemon Go the day it launched, and probably played at least six days a week for a year thereafter. As a lifelong Pokemon fan, the idea of being able to venture out into real-life forests in order to hunt for wild Scyther was a dream come true. I’ll never forget the first Squirtle I found on the beach, wandering along sand made solid by contact with the water’s edge, or how fitting it was that I caught my first Dratini in a small pool on a secluded seashore next to an ancient tower about 15 minutes from my house – who knew such magic existed so close to home?
I played with my brother most days, and even my friends – most of whom aren’t very into games – picked up battery packs so we could embark on longer excursions. We had become enraptured with this game, which, through a simple phone camera, conjured a portal into a world we all grew up wishing we could inhabit.
One day, when my pals had long since lost interest in Chanseys and Charmanders, it was raining outside. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the Irish climate, but it’s very temperamental. I had a few Lures at my disposal, but the nearest PokeStop was a five-minute walk away, and I wasn’t arsed standing in the pissing rain for 30 minutes just to catch a few Rattatas. And so, I decided to see if I could figure out a way of playing from home.
This was the beginning of the end for one of my favourite games of all time.
I’m not going to describe exactly how I did it, mostly because I don’t recommend that anyone else even considers doing so. What I will say is this: I rigged my Pokemon Go account through some dodgy third-party software and managed to reconfigure its movement system, such that I could map its registration of real-world steps to keyboard inputs. I also messed around with its ability to read GPS, which is how I ended up at Santa Monica Pier in the opening anecdote of this story. Other areas I visited included Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Sydney Opera House, and Times Square. I was sure to only make a drastic change in location once every 24 hours, lest the game become wise to the fact I was travelling across the world at lightspeed.
Anyway, I played for a few hours straight, racking up Dragonites as if it was nobody’s business. I had Blastoise, Charizard, and Venusaur about ten times each, with Gengars and Alakazams galore. I went on a walk the following day and put my new ‘mons on all the local gyms – Team Mystic represent. I had a stupidly strong Dragonite holding down the gym at the local pub – how Irish is that? – while other beefers held down the fort at the park and by the beach.
And then, almost out of nowhere, it hit me: I had nothing left to do.
I still play Pokemon Go once every couple of weeks. I actually ended up releasing a lot of the ‘mons I cheated to get, because having them made playing pointless. I felt no satisfaction in having raised them myself, but there was no reason for me to legitimately catch and train new Pokemon. Hacking Pokemon Go ruined the game for me in a way that disappoints me to this day. This was one of my favourite games of all time, something I put countless hours into over the course of an entire year, and yet I consciously chose to exhaust it of all it had. By the time Gen 2 came to the game, I just couldn’t get into it. Here was a chance to start over, and yet I had become so disillusioned with my actions that I couldn’t drum up even the slightest beat of interest.
I’m trying to get back into Pokemon Go now, and have made plans with my brother to save some Lures to pop over the weekend. There’s a gorgeous tower by the water about 20 minutes from where we live, which is parked right in between a PokeStop and a gym. The goal is to Lure some ‘mons over, pop one or two on the gym, go for a walk along the cliffs – which are usually packed with rare Pokemon – and come back to see if we’re still in charge of the area.
And do you know what? I’m confident we’ll have a great time, and maybe this will be the beginning of a new era of Pokemon Go for me. The reason I’m writing this is because it’s taken four entire years for me to care about this game again, despite the fact I genuinely loved it. And that was entirely my fault because I stupidly decided to play in a cheap and game-breaking way.
So yeah. If you’re after a shiny Mewtwo, maybe think twice before you stoop to hacking or cheating. It might be great for a day or two, but you’ll soon realize you couldn’t give a shit about it purely because of how easily you got it. After all, this is a game designed for people to play every single day for years on end – if you get everything all at once, the only person you’re really cheating is yourself.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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