Photos created by Ryan Pijai
Last night, I decided to go for it. My goal was to capture 10 Pokemon GO gyms all at once (the maximum the game allows you to do), which, as any Pokemon GO player will tell you, is extremely difficult in a bustling major city like Boston. Usually a single gym barely lasts 15 minutes before someone else takes it over.
I began my campaign at midnight. I knew it would be difficult, but I had no idea the type of night that was in store for me. What began as a frivolous self-imposed achievement quest, ended up turning into a crazy 3 and a half hour ordeal that felt like the Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games
I struggled with maintaining phone battery life, managing the health of my Pokemon (I had 0 health potions remaining when the night was over), safely navigating the city at night, optimizing my strategy for which gyms to target, in what order, and how to quickly dispatch of the defending Pokemon, and dealing with other Pokemon players. I did all of this while the clock was ticking as other players attacked and took back my gyms throughout the night.
My journey brought me to various locations: I was at MIT’s campus, at Harvard Business School’s campus, at gas stations, on the front steps of a church, a park, and at a running track, to name a few.
When on school campuses, there were patrolling groups of students who guarded Pokemon gyms up until about 3:00 am. Any time I took over one of their gyms, they grouped up in packs of 3 or more and walked great distances to claim them back. When they defeated me, they immediately placed entire teams of high level Pokemon in the gym to deter me from coming back. The players I was up against were all level 22 and higher. Sometimes they carried flashlights and sometimes they had light music playing as they marched quietly to defend their honor.
I spent hours figuring out which Pokemon gyms high level players cared about and which ones were off their radar. But most importantly, I kept moving. I sprinted between all Pokemon gym locations. Every time I lost a gym, I ran and took two others.
There’s a Boss?!
After several hours, I was very close to reaching my objective. I had successfully taken over and held 8 Pokemon gyms, and my plan was progressing smoothly for taking over the last 2. I just needed to run half a mile and I would reach a neutral location I saved for overtaking last. When I was about a quarter of a mile away from that location, I looked at my phone and inspected the defending Pokemon at the 2 remaining gyms. Just like I expected! Only 1 or 2 defenders at each. Nothing to worry about.
But then, suddenly, on my game screen some chaotic dust clouds formed at one of the gyms I was targeting, which is a game indicator that a battle is taking place. Um…it’s 3:15 am. Who the heck is still playing Pokemon GO at this hour?!
When the dust settled, what I saw next blew me away. In the final stretch of my adventure, when I was so close to achieving all of my Pokemon dreams, I ran into a huge road block…”The Boss.”
I ran into a hardcore player that was unlike any I had seen before. All of the best players I encountered so far were level 22 and level 23 with Pokemon that had combat scores (CP) between 1200 to 1700. This power gamer was Level 26! He traveled alone and kept a maxed-out Dragonite Pokemon that had nearly 2700 CP! Wtf. On top of that, he was actively attacking his own Pokemon so that the level of his gym continuously went up. Every time he leveled up the gym, I would have to fight his Pokemon one extra time before being able to take over the gym. I only had 1 healing potion left! I wasn’t even sure I could beat his Pokemon-on-steroids even once. Multiple times? Wtf x100.
There has to be another way.
I needed to conquer 2 Pokemon gyms to reach my goal. There are only 2 in this area. 1 of them I can take over, but the other is controlled by “The Boss.” If I risk it and fight him and fail, my best Pokemon would be dead and would need serious healing. I was all out of hyper healing potions. Failure would mean I would not be able to take over any other gyms.
Way too risky. I’m not going to fight him.
But how about the other gym? Is it worth it for me to go after his other gym in the area instead? After “The Boss” is done with his current gym wouldn’t he just walk over and take back the other one? Maybe I should cut my losses and abandon the whole area entirely.
But then I realized something.
This gamer is crazy. He doesn’t care about gyms. The only thing he cares about is seeing how many times he can force other players to fight his 2700 CP Dragonite Pokemon. Most likely, he’ll sit at this gym for the next 20 minutes leveling it up just for the heck of it. He also probably doesn’t want to move. While he preoccupies himself with that one gym, I should be able to snag the other gym in the area AND run all the way to another area to grab my last gym before he takes back his other one.
After deciding to take the gamble, I took off immediately to occupy the second gym in the area. Then I sprinted non-stop to the next closest Pokemon gym outside of the area (which wasn’t that close). My phone batteries were dying but I had no time to recharge it. I was tired but I couldn’t slow down. I had come this far: 3 and a half hours of struggling and battling for virtual supremacy with virtual creatures against virtually crazy people like me. I would see this through to the end! I had to grab the final gym before “The Boss” moved on to the nearby gym I took from him.
I wanted to check up on my other Pokemon defenders but I couldn’t waste a moment. I focused solely on reaching my destination and defeating the gym as fast as I possibly could. When I finished, my phone was at 2% batteries. I opened up my Pokemon screen and lo and behold, all of my 10 Pokemon defenders were still alive! I did it!! I took pictures and cashed in my rewards ASAP.
A minute later my second-to-last gym fell. “The Boss” took it out, but he was too late. I had already finished my quest.
And then 1 minute after that my phone ran out of batteries.
Thank you Pokemon GO for all of the awesome and unforgettable times. I achieved what I wanted to with this game and had a blast while doing it. I am semi-retiring from it for now, but I bought some extra Poke Coins to show my gratitude. =p.
I hope everyone else has as much fun with this game as I did! I would love to hear your stories.
– Ryan Pijai