The New Playground and the New Playground Rumors: As Pokémon GO gains popularity, the return of strange rumors, and attempts to hack the game, have come back.
Back in the Schoolyard
If you grew up in the United States during the late ’90s and early 2000s, you probably went to an elementary school where the playground used to be so much more prevalent than it is today: It was not only the place to get out our physical energy but the public forum of its children. Most kids didn’t know how to use the internet to call someone out for their bullshit, and most kids wouldn’t dare use the word bullshit at that age.
So, most of the time, if three out of four kids you trusted agreed on something, it was most likely the truth, it had to be.
I remember when I was about 6, playing Pokémon at the Richard Henry Lee Elementary playground; two kids would be the trainers, sending out new Pokémon to “battle” each other, whose roles would be filled by other kids. Then, we would switch off, or sometimes the trainer would pretend to be the Pokémon if too many people were sick that day (we didn’t have cell phones to see who would be at school).
So, one day, before class is about to start, I’m “battling” my friend, Jonathan, a smaller Irish kid, who was quite possibly the best actual player in the game at our school. He bragged about his level 100 Raticate, and was one of those people who was usually more focused on the Game Boy games themselves than the cartoons, but being a 6-year-old of course he loved the cartoons.
And as we’re battling, it was mainly me and him, and a few other friends gathered around: Sam, Kiefer, Hunter, Willy; a pretty big group of friends who loved the game to varying obsessive extents.
“I choose you, Machamp!” I called out, jumping forward, moving my arms as though they were muscular enough to deadlift a car, imagining the second set of arms underneath me, squatting as though I was so big and strong that I had to move slowly.
And then, Jonathan called out what Pokémon he was gonna be.
“Go, MegaMetal!” Jonathan’s arms were like those on a T-Rex. He hunched forward, moving his head back and forth like some large dragon, his mouth making that “whirr” sound we all imagine robots making as they move.
I didn’t believe him. “That’s not a real Pokémon!” I wasn’t even sure. I had memorized all 150 of the Pokémon back then, and I kinda sorta knew what a Togepi must be, so I thought I’d call him out.
“Yes he is!” Kiefer replied.
“You have to use a GameShark to get him in the game,” Jonathan explained, as though he probably had to multiple times, which I’m sure happened multiple times for anyone who supposedly found an unknown Pokémon that most people had never heard of.
For those of you who don’t know what a GameShark is, it’s a third-party device, often called a “cheat cartridge,” you used to place in the game slot of your Game Boy, or other systems that allows you to modify the source code in the game.
Basically, you’re putting a new set of codes in between the Pokemon game cartridge, and the Game Boy, that lets you do some crazy-awesome things, if it doesn’t cause so many glitches that it becomes unplayable. For example, Jonathan supposedly used his to get multiple rare candies, and you could also hack the data for wild Pokémon: You could make a “one of a kind” legendary Pokémon, like Zapdos, Mewtwo, or even simply Snorlax, appear randomly in the wild.
There were hotlines to call, where you could ask someone what codes to put into the GameShark to alter the game. Then, there were internet forums doing the same thing, but 21st century-style.
However, as with any rumor in a school, it travels around quickly. I started hearing rumors that you could go to the Orange Islands from the cartoon, if you stayed on the S.S. Anne cruise ship long enough. Then, I heard that you had to use a GameShark to do so. Or, if you found a hidden passage in Mewtwo’s cave, you could catch Mew, or even MegaMetal.
Unfortunately, the rumors were only strengthened by the true existence of Pokémon that you couldn’t find on a list of “all 150.” Mew. MissingNo. Pikablue. MegaMetal. Nidogod. I still never learned if MegaMetal was a real Pokémon, obtainable with a GameShark or otherwise.
I soon realized that whoever told me that Nidogod, the evolved form of Nidoking and Nidoqueen, that was invisible and another type besides ground/poison, was full of shit.
Fast forward to today: We probably haven’t seen this many people excited about a Pokémon game since the original games, if not ever. Pokémon Go is the game that we’ve wanted since we were little kids. It outperformed twitter; the users in the United States alone outnumber the users of twitter, with 21 million in the United States, and most likely somewhere between 50 and 100 million players downloading it in total.
On the positive, crowd-sourcing has allowed apps like PokéVision to map out where Pokémon have spawned, using nothing but reports from multiple users. Essentially, what used to be a strategy guide from Prima Games or Nintendo Power has been replaced by the fanbase, working together to make stronger trainers.
But as with any game with millions of people, there will always be those who want to cheat to get a competitive edge; and unfortunately, those who try to exploit cheaters for personal profit. There are apps everywhere that claim if you download them, you’ll get 1000 poke-coins. Or 900,000 poke-coins. Or even, ONE MILLION POKE-DOLLARS. MUAHUAHUAHUAHUA!
But, are they working? Odds are probably not. I don’t see anyone with a couple hundred incubators they bought with poke-coins. Supposedly the New Yorker who caught every Pokémon currently available in North America has spent around 2000 dollars on in-game currency, so why would you ever need that many coins?
Age of Information
In a strange echo of playground rumors, we live in the Age of Information, where nearly everybody has a cell phone in their pocket or purse that’s not only a Pokémon Go console, it’s a miniature computer that can google anything, sometimes via voice activation. Essentially, we could call a GameShark hotline or google the cheat codes, on the same device as we play the game on now.
There’s Bulbapedia, an entire wiki dedicated to documenting every character in the anime, every Pokémon and variant of it, and so on. There’s enough information to cause an information overload, and often when it comes to rumors, there are multiple conflicting viewpoints, perhaps too many.
And these sources could be reputable, or they could be simply a bunch of 6-year-olds that know how to use a message board. Sometimes, the reputable news sources are only quoting people they don’t realize are a bunch of 6-year-olds that know how to use a message board. But often we aren’t sure, especially when there’s a drive to publish the biggest news the fastest; to make sure that “You heard it here first, folks!”
We have Facebook groups, real-world clubs, and are slowly becoming closer to what we saw in the games: The Queen Mary, a famous ship which is now moored in Long Beach, is even having Pokémon meetups, just like the in-game S.S. Anne.
Perhaps if you glue a GameShark to your phone, you can even hack the Queen Mary to make it sail to the Orange Islands.
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