Pokémon Go in Renfrewshire – Gotta Catch Them All!
Half a decade into its existence, resident Renfrewshire Pokémon GO expert Tim Merrick discusses the game’s enduring appeal, its health benefits and more.
As Pokémon GO approaches five years since its launch, the mobile sensation continues to attract new players and has over 60,000,000 people regularly participating every month. Why do you think this app has been so successful?
I think it ultimately boils down to the nostalgia factor for the most part. The Pokémon games played a big part in the childhood of many of the people who currently play Pokémon Go, and while those games did have some aspects of socialising (such as trading and battling), the social capabilities of Pokémon Go are considerably greater. With every event and the new features added over the years, there is always something to keep players interested.
When raiding was introduced in July 2017, what impact did that have on people playing the game in Renfrewshire? Was this the start of the Pokémon Go community?
Raiding definitely provided players with a bit more to do than just filling up their Pokédex! The fact that the Tier 5/Legendary raid bosses required players to battle together in teams really helped promote the growth of the local Pokémon Go scene. Combined with the creation of the discord server, players could organise these raids with ease. Prior to the discord, however, I was told that you just had to turn up to a raid and hope that others turned up too!
Having lived in Paisley for over ten years but not being from the area originally, did this lead to a positive change in your social life?
Definitely. Working nightshift in the city never really left me with much opportunity to make many friends around Renfrewshire after moving up here. Thanks to a chance raid invitation to Barshaw Park I was able to meet up with local players who pointed me in the direction of the Facebook page and ultimately the discord server. This opened up a whole new world of playing Pokémon locally and some of those players have gone on to become some of my best friends.
Thanks to these friendships I’ve made, I’ve had the opportunity to explore much more of Renfrewshire and the surrounding areas than I thought I ever would. Words can’t really describe the views I saw driving down the coastal road from Langbank for the first time, or seeing Renfrewshire from the top of the Braes. I’ve also spent plenty of time in Comicrazy with the people I’ve met through the game. I’m incredibly grateful for the people I’ve met through Pokémon Go!
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What is it like to be an integral part of Renfrewshire’s Pokémon Go community?
When it comes to the Discord, I’m just happy to give back to the community. I’m always trying to find new people to join the Discord and it was great to see so many new faces (or usernames, at least) join over the past year.
Pokémon Go has regular events and community days, what has been your favourite event to date?
Larger weekend events such as Go Fest last year come to mind, but any event where it hasn’t chucked it down, basically! Playing for a few hours chasing shinies in the sun is never a bad time, but we’ve had our fair share of community days that have ended with people huddled in bus shelters to avoid a downpour.
How did Covid-19 change the way people play the game?
The biggest change we saw last year was the introduction of remote raid passes. These enabled players to participate in raids from the comfort and safety of their own homes. While it certainly made Niantic a boat load of money, it helped maintain the playability of the game for many who were adhering to the local guidelines. On top of that, it encouraged community spirit during trying times.
In your opinion, have these changes made the game better or worse?
Covid-19 didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of players too much and I’d say Niantic did a good job adapting to the pandemic. While the summer of 2020 saw the return of many older players who maybe dropped off due to work or other commitments in their life, the local community also saw a sizable number of new players who were looking to make the most of their time off work.
You recently completed the newly introduced level 50, is it time to put your feet up or will you continue to rack up the points in anticipation of level 60?
I can’t sit still for too long, so I doubt I’ll be retiring any time soon! There’s always something new to do in the game, and plenty to keep everyone interested. I’d like to say I don’t think I’ll go as hard as I did from 40 to 50 if they ever introduce level 60, but I would definitely be lying there!
If Niantic, the creators of Pokémon Go, granted you one change to the game, what would it be?
There are players on the discord who joke that I’m already on Niantic’s payroll, so I’d rather not further those rumours! While there aren’t many new features I can think the game could benefit from, they could possibly work on current features that need the bugs ironed out first. One of the bigger requests I could get behind would be if the free daily pass we receive could also be used as a remote pass.
What’s your advice to anyone who is thinking of starting to play Pokémon Go?
Enjoy it, plain and simple. You can’t ignore the health benefits this game provides. Pokémon Go got me out of the house and I’m much more active thanks to the game. We have an incredible local community who never fail to make new members feel welcome and answer any questions they may have.