Suaree’s Seven Day Pokémon Go Challenge

No doubt you have all heard about the Pokémon craze going around the world at the moment.  It is an interesting exploration of what an increasingly digital universe can look like and how practical skills could easily fall away leaving children to chase imaginary animals in strange places.  Such is the nature of these ‘new’ phenomena in today’s fast paced societies. Luckily, this story is neither fast or furious and is rather about a week in the life of a now-recovering Māori Pokémon Go player. To be more specific, it’s a journal of a 40-year-old Māori Pokémon Go beginner with equal amounts peril, danger and victory.


Today I watched a 7-Sharp news item on Pokémon Go, so I named my avatar 7sharp. I know, I know, you’re thinking, she’s not very imaginative, this is going to be a long read, but bear with me.  I download the app and set about customising the avatar to everything I’m not (she being short and slim with blazing green eyes). Now I’m ready to join the masses. I self-navigate and see if I can catch one. The seconds are killing me and I feel a little ripped off. Needless to say I threw the phone on the couch and went upstairs. While there I think about the places I saw in things resembling towers. I convince myself it’s not too late and take a stroll to the tower across the road. I find the tower and can see that the photos match but I’m at a loss: I don’t know what to do.  Disappointed anew, I go  home and vow to never play again.


Someone in the office is talking about it.  I try to listen in but don’t want to be too obvious.  I already have two fails under my belt so I’m just holding back and listening.  I learn that you spin the tower and it gives you free stuff and that the ‘big’ towers are gyms. I laugh on the inside; I haven’t been to an actual gym since I joined last month, so going to an imaginary gym just might work for me.  I open the app and suss the lay of the land in west Auckland. There’s nothing in the office so I put the phone aside and leave it for home (as all good conscious Pokémon Go players do I suspect).

As I prep for dinner I check my app and there is a bulbasaur in my living room, next to the exercise ball. I go to catch it and realise I actually still don’t know how. I hazard a guess and touch the ball, a large green circle envelops the animal and I still don’t know what to do. The frustration grows and I who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire-style call my friend from the office.  He tells me to flick the ball at the Pokémon when the circle is at its smallest. Without wasting time, I reopen the app and fire it off. Following some bleep, bleep, bleep and datdong with a side of flashing stars and I have caught my first Pokémon.  Stoked with my success, I am keen to try out the gym. I don’t get far before being told I have to level up before I can enter and I honestly don’t know if I can take anymore rejection from this game. All the same, I go to bed satisfied I have caught a bulbasaur and I can’t wait to tell my friends about it.


Over the course of one night my knowledge has increased tenfold. I grow more in tune with the opportunities presented to me. I have just realised that the streets and buildings are actually real and the whole augmented reality strikes me into a newfound stupor for the game. There is much more  catching them all to be had, but first I’ve got to go to work. Not to worry – my workmate mentioned they convene in groups at lunch (whew). By midday, I have levelled up to three and am building a nice stable group of Pokémon. A colleague reviews my catch and informs me I have caught all of the normal ones. I am sent  into hyper mode. I go home and Google videos, study the details of battling and set targets. Ten Pokémon per day for the next three days.  I am determined and more focused than ever.


Today was awesome. It was slow going during the day as I balanced work and Pokémon hunts.  By 12:30 in the Toi Tangata office I had only caught three for the day’s total.  We arrange to go hunting at lunch time as there are lots of ‘fluttering leaves’ at the park behind us. I wanted to go, I was meant to go, but I got stuck in a meeting and had reports due the next day so I stayed in for lunch. Time for plan B. I had realised what the fluttering leaves meant by now and there were heaps in the field across from the gym. Win #1, Pokémon Go has compelled me to go to the real gym because sending things to an imaginary one seems too easy – and good for the goose, good for the gander I suppose- so I get the gym kit on and start chasing those Pokémon.

Tonight at the gym I’m taking it easy; a quick spin on the bike and a circuit workout for good measure. It’s squats, ropes and planks, my favourite type of exercise. After the buzzer goes it seems the entire group are talking about the game. Parental concern and digital naivety prop up supporters and haters alike. Alas, the next set is ready and we are back into it.

By the third set of planks the trainer asks for a joke and I reply with the fact that I thought I could do this class after a 6 month hiatus. We all laugh and catch our breath before the next set. As we collapse on the mat from the plank, my phone makes a sound and I know a Pokémon is near.  I drag myself up from the floor and begin chasing this thing around the gym.  I can see another young boy approaching the same space and I block him off at the door.  It’s just a fearow but it looks so awesome and I can’t hide my excitement (win #2).

I catch him first go and feel a sense of accomplishment.  I finish the circuit broken and defeated at my lack of fitness and vow to be back with some consistency (win #3).  On the short walk home I am bombarded with zubats, rattatas and weedles, I count them when I get home and I have 9 in total (win #4).  Following a shower, the app is generous and brings a pidgey right to my room before I turn in for the night. I show my partner the cute little Pokémon and she sighs with half an eye roll and promptly goes to sleep. Meanwhile, I go to bed feeling like I could be something great. I’m dreaming of all the Pokémon I need to catch and how I need to actually make more time for this (win #5).


Today is Thursday and I have a meeting with my colleagues.  We are all avid players so the car ride was interesting. There are comparisons within each of our stables, identification of teams (Pokémon has three team colours: yellow, blue and red).  I am outnumbered and feel a little anxious; these guys aren’t on my team, what does that mean? Why didn’t they choose Valour like me? Anyway I’m devouring the tricks and cheats off these two as we go (win #6).

I’m the driver so I can’t catch anything but I hand it to my friend of 20 plus years and ask him to take over. He gives an evolving and at times elaborate lecture on the Pokémon universe that neither of us are listening too. We are only interested in what new captures are out there for us. He explains that someone has dropped a lure and that brings in more Pokémon and while we are parking, he catches a ponyta and there are cheers all round (mainly from me because it is my phone, win #7). Some days everything just works out for the best I reckon.


Today I set about implementing the tricks and cheats I learned yesterday. I trade and transfer my doubles and feel like the real deal. I’ve got lots of items in my backpack and I now know how to use them. I walk to the shops in the morning for groceries and realise I am now gym-able: I have reached level five which means I can now battle. I pass the grocery store and go straight to battle at the gym. I don’t know what to do so I just push buttons and see that a battle is underway.  It’s exciting and not at the same time; I don’t know who will win or why and after 30 seconds or so I am announced the winner and get points for my victory. I feel a pinch of pride as I look at my humble pidgey (win #8).

Feeling great after my victory, I return home and get ready for work. An onyx (highly prized) pops up on radar as I enter the garage, it lurks in the driveway and I stop to grab it. Today is a high and I am ready to tell others of my great victory and my latest score. My passenger however is not impressed and wanted to be at work half an hour ago (oops #toomanytocount).  I try to explain to her how important onyx is and there are endless eye rolls until the car moves out of the garage and we are on our way.

In the evening I do more trading and bag checking. Everything makes sense now and I feel a great strategy developing within my mind.  I have kept up with the challenge of capturing ten Pokémon a day and have a few cool ones up my sleeve. I’m also vaguely aware of the control the game seems to be taking in my life, but I like it so I keep it up. I go for another walk and decide to have another battle; this time victory is not mine. I’m not too upset because the battling isn’t the most exciting thing I’ve seen, granted, there is science to it, but it’s just not that exciting to me. I go home and think about things I could do better in my next battle. As I relax for the night I check my Pokémon and realise onyx is not there. I quickly call my friend and he texts me the revival process. Thank goodness, I really like onyx and ponyta and I don’t want to lose either of them.  It is at this point I realise I am hooked.


We have a farewell lunch today at the Auckland Viaduct and I am hoping to catch some rare water Pokémon.  In a week, I have battled and lost many challenges but learned many lessons for being an all star, first-rate Māori Pokémon player.  This morning I am learning that bad traffic decisions lead to poor parking options and that parking in Auckland really is a form of metro-extortion or tax on living there.  We arrive 30 minutes late and catch small pidgeys on the short walk over.  On our way, my nieces tell me about eggs, “Aunty, you haven’t even used your egg!” they scream.  “Your pocket is full of stuff and you can’t collect any more items!.” This is all beyond me, so I sit back and watch the youth work their magic. They tell me there are 2k, 5k and 10k eggs and you have to walk that distance to catch them. “Oh, I see,” is the reply. Mind officially blown!  Now I get it, the craze is promoting and rewarding health on so many levels.  It’s the health nuts’ version of Grand Theft Auto – this is the real deal.  My niece occupies my phone for the rest of the day transferring, evolving, battling and reviving my pokemon.

After spending the rest of my day with the nieces in Christchurch, I am hoping my South Island haul of Pokémon is exotic and majestic. One of the nieces is a player so she is collecting for both phones as I drive to our hotel. She likes being driven around as well; with  the already unique configurations of Christchurch roads, she is giving out lefts and rights like a boss. Fortunately for us, I apparently don’t know my left from my right so I just drive to the hotel.  As we do, I notice groups of people on the bridges over the river, looking at their phones.  They are playing as well and my excitement picks up.  “There are lures all over the river,” my niece shouts with glee. “Stop the car, I need to get out here”.  We can’t stop in time and she doesn’t get her Pokémon – the rest of the drive is silent and I trade tomorrow’s adventures for a hope at getting a happier passenger.  This works a little bit and I am glad my seven day Pokémon challenge is over. It has been a crazy week of learning, trialing and implementing Pokémon wisdom.  I have felt the rush and wanted more, but for now it’s back to the grind of reports, training workshops and more reports.

Nā Suaree Borell