Illustrated by Spencer J. Olson

Why I’m Leaving ‘Pokémon Go’

Goodbye to all that combat power

Sure, I’d been with others — I had been playing since the original Red and Blue were released in 1997, occasionally having dreams of reliving those carefree days of my youth just causing a scene on the Indigo Plateau with Mewtwo.

But after two decades of torrid relationships spent snapping Pokémon, entering them in beauty contests, and stuffing them in pinball machines, I lost interest in those others. Johto, Kanto, Sinnoh — they felt too small for me now. I knew there had to be a bigger, realer world out there, one that wasn’t so Black and White, 3DS. I left my first love behind in pursuit of what might be my greatest. Pokémon Go, I needed you like an Eevee needs a Thunderstone (to turn into Jolteon, obv).

The first time we played together was like finally catching a Pikachu in the Viridian Forest — damn it, I felt alive again after all these years. Even Rattatas and Pidgeys looked brand-new. I couldn’t get enough of them; even after I earned 25 candies and evolved a Raticate. “Go fuck yourself!” growled a stranger after I bumped right into him, looking down at my phone as I chased after a Bulbasaur. I just grinned; you had me as hooked as a Magikarp on an Old Rod.

I remember when I first encountered a 1000+ CP Pokémon in the wild. It was a Pinsir, and the park across from my apartment was suddenly like the Safari Zone with how many of those suckers were there. I didn’t know if I could do it, but you gave me confidence when I most needed it — like when I fought my first gym battle and didn’t feel one bit ashamed to lean against the side of that psychiatrist’s office with a half-dozen other trainers. It was crowded, but I didn’t care. I had the greatest game in the world.

Life as a Pokémon Man, courtesy of the author

But as beautiful as you were, you also had an ugly side. Even after I reached level 16, a CP 89 Weedle took ten Poké Balls to catch. My Pokédex increasingly looked like the Dexpages — a bunch of names I didn’t care about. But as Bob Dylan said, “behind every beautiful thing, there’s pain.” So I continued on my quest to be the very best, like no one ever was.

I traveled to Battery Park and Central Park, scouring every patch of tall grass in between. I knew each block of my neighborhood like the back of my hand. We’d developed a familiarity with each other that only comes with time, patience, and an abundance of Poké Balls. But eventually that intimacy was fading. The Pidgeys, the Rattatas, the Doduos — dear god, the Doduos — I couldn’t bear to see their beady little eyes one more time. It began to feel just like it was with your predecessors now, and like a Charmander’s tail in the Cinnabar Island rain, I started to feel burned out.

You had turned me into someone I was not. Someone who wouldn’t stop pressing snooze until I could get you to properly detect my location. Someone so accustomed to Caterpie and Horsea that I’d miss my train just to catch a “rare” Nidoran♂. Walking down the street, I would pass complete strangers and find myself silently comparing myself to them — was that girl a gym leader? Did that guy just catch a Dragonite? When we first met, it all felt magical; now, it felt just like all the others before you. You had me in a Rattata race that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be in.

I changed. We had shared experiences together that I would truly never forget (remember when we found out the Eeveelutions changed based on their nicknames?), and maybe in some future update I’ll come back to you — but only to toss back a couple Razz Berries. What we had is gone. Pokémon mastery is dead.

Once we logged out for the last time, it was as though I had used Calm Mind. All the things I had started stressing about began to melt away like Muk down a drain. Though don’t get me wrong, Pokémon Go, I will think of you fondly whenever I see a pigeon or a rat and remember how in love we were when we caught our first Pidgey, our first Rattata. Nothing will ever change that. Not even Pokémon Sun and Moon.