IT FINALLY RELEASED IN SINGAPORE! Somehow, even though I am usually terrible at waking up in the mornings, I woke up at 9am on 6 August – the exact time Pokemon Go released in Singapore. After frantically downloading and logging into my account, my first Pokemon (after the starter which I’d set up almost a month ago) was an Exeggcute, which was caught…in my toilet.
I remember that first morning as I scrambled to change and get into gear and rushed out of the house to explore. It’s here, it’s here! And as I wandered around the neighbourhood finding Pokestops, I can never forget that first time I ran into another trainer at a Pokestop and our eyes met; in that moment we shared a look of acknowledgment, we both knew we were playing Pokemon Go.
Fast forward to 10 days later and Singapore has been completely taken over by PoGo Fever. In 3 days I had made it to level 16, but have since slowed down the pace and somewhat plateaued at level 21. Friends in Japan and the US were a bit baffled by how fast I, and other Singaporean players, had progressed. Aided by how Singapore is a small city state and there are only a few truly rural places, most areas are peppered with PokeStops and Gyms and Pokemon spawn at a decent frequency that allow players to surge through and level up quickly.
Not to mention how every single business has seemed to jump onto the bandwagon and capitalize on this craze by providing unlimited lures at malls and restaurants, or some PoGo tie in promotion. ‘Show a screenshot of a Pokemon you’ve caught in our mall/restaurant/cafe (with AR on) and get a free voucher!’ is now the norm and we’ve seen a PoGo Dating Event (Dating Go!) and even a supposed ‘Pokemon Master’ job up for grabs. Ahh, capitalism.
Plus just knowing how behind we are due to the late release of PoGo in Southeast Asia only adds more fuel to the flames and drives up our levels of kiasuism to the peak. Kiasu, literally “afraid to lose”, is one of the characteristics that defines Singaporeans – we hate losing, and therefore become competitive to catch up with and surpass others. In other words we have no chill and just want to be the very best like no one ever was.
But the best part of the game is how it’s become a form of bonding activity – for the young and old, for all walks of life and in the crazy hordes of people rushing for that rare Pokemon spawn, you somehow feel like ‘yes, I’m a part of something bigger’. It’s probably just how everyone just wants to be a part of the hype, though for a lot of us it’s also about reliving our childhood dreams.
My colleagues play PoGo with their children, I see aunties and uncles in the neighbourhood playing, and now going Pokemon Hunting has become a legitimate activity among friends. Last Saturday I spent half a day at Vivocity catching Magikarps in order to reach the 400 candies needed to evolve it into Gyarados.
And just our luck, a rare Vaporeon spawn took place that night and sent us scrambling onto the rooftop terrace to try and catch it. A horde of people had gathered in that one spot where it spawned and we rushed over to try our luck before the Pokemon disappeared off the map, and I almost tripped over a plank in my hurry to get there. Oops.
“Eh eh you got it? Vaporeon! Vaporeon!” came the cries from the crowd and we excitedly searched our screens for it, tapping in a frenzy at the spot where it spawned and felt the adrenaline and anxiety as we threw Pokeball after Pokeball, Berry after Berry to catch it. Nearby, a solemn cry of “NOOOOOO” erupted from a group of guys and we felt their sorrow as we imagined how painful it was to have the Pokemon run away.
After the victory of catching our own Vaporeon, suddenly the flurry erupted again as cries of “Dragonair!” echoed in the crowd and the frenzy intensified. That day was my first sighting of the elusive dragon Pokemon and I was beyond ecstatic to have added a Dragonair and quite a few Dratini to my collection.
We ended the day watching the sunset in the distance and just basking in the atmosphere – around us phones were alight and trainers were busy catching as many as they could or just showing friends what they got, and there was this sense of satisfaction and joy. The whole day I had been buzzing and running on adrenaline, excited beyond means at every spawn, every rare Pokemon caught and every moment spent pretending to be a trainer just like in the games I’d played as a child.
While there are people who have been dismissive of the game and who have been closed minded twats who make remarks such as “so old already still playing” and someone who told me I need to “grow up”, the general response to the game has been rather warm and welcoming.
Pokemon Go has been such great fun – creating community, a way for people to bond and to get out and explore parts of Singapore we would have never thought of or wanted to. And for me, it’s also an excuse to get out there and walk lots more. I went out in the afternoon to take a walk around the neighbourhood after hearing a tip off about a rare Pokemon spawn. While the tip off had led to nothing but a lie, when I returned, my mom asked me “So how many did you catch?”. I never thought I’d experience a day when my mom would even know about one of my interests, let alone my love for Pokemon.
In the words of the show’s catchy opening theme, Gotta catch em all! by travelling across the land, searching far and wide indeed.
Now excuse me if the posts start getting even more infrequent, I’m probably out hunting to fill my Pokedex.
Till next time,