Rural Pokemon Go is a Real Bummer
I got to Pokemon X/Y late, completing my conquering of the Kalos Region's gyms at the end of June. It was my favorite Pokemon game I had ever played so, when Pokemon Go came out in July, I was primed to take my Pokemon talents to South Beach, looking forward to real world Pokemon hunting. The game's launch was plagued with problems and the app itself has tremendous technical issues, but I will not be focusing on those as a multitude of bigger and more well known entities have already elaborated on them. What I want to talk about is the experience I have had as a rural Pokemon Go player. Let me tell you, it's a regular Dust Bowl out here.
I live in a town of about 3,000 people, which is pretty tiny in most people's eyes. We have one stoplight, one grocery store, one library, you get the idea. It is a small community. What I was looking forward to the most with Pokemon Go was the opportunity to take walks through my little town and see others playing the game in our little park and outside the post office, to see young kids in our community asking permission to go into stores and back yards to catch an elusive Snorlax. I saw the potential in an otherwise below average app to have a cool impact on the kids in my community.
At the outset of the launch, our town had moments like this. The post office is (was) our one Pokestop. I stopped by to spin for some Pokeballs when I saw someone had set up a Pokemon lure. I hung out for a while, catching the odd Pidgie or Caterpie, when I looked up and saw about 8 or 9 other people doing the same thing. We all smiled and nodded at each other, acknowledging our common activity without exchanging any words. It felt like I was part of something unique and important, a shift in the tides of how we may game together in the future.
Now, one month in, I have seen the future of this game and it is a future that no longer includes me. My town has literally become a wasteland, cracked earth and dried tears are all that remain where there were once lush fields full of Pokemon. The post office is no longer a Pokestop. Our one gym, the local library, stands with a Team Valor Charizard atop of it with almost no challengers. The nearby Pokemon feature, a feature that has recently been subjected to player and critic scrutiny, is completely devoid of Pokemon 99% of the time. My community has become a Pokemon Go desert. Check out the screenshot below from one of the most populated streets in my town:
As I realized this was happening, I had many hypotheses as to why. This game obviously responds to players in the area. The more players, the more Pokemon, Pokestops, etc. However, I assumed that there would be a base level amount of Pokemon populating each area no matter what. That way, a kid in Oklahoma would be able to catch 'em all just like a kid in New York City. Sure, the kid in New York City would see rare Pokemon, frequent Pokestops, and gyms more frequently, but Niantic wouldn't build a game that ostracized a gigantic swath of the population, would they? It appears that they might have.
I have attempted to contact Niantic for comment on this but, probably because they have no idea who I am, they have not responded. I would like to know if there are plans to fix this because, as a small town resident, I can tell you that I am not playing, nor am I planning to play this game at all anymore. There is something profanely lonely about hearing the whole world talk about about something that you are unable to experience yourself.