How I joined Team GO Rocket in Pokemon Go

Saturday, July 25, 2020 9:17 AM

By:  IcicleFerret

Pokemon is a very different game now than it was when I was a little kid. Back then, and still today in the Anime and movies, (if you haven't seen Detective Pikachu, you should,) Pokemon was about friendship and camaraderie, about being stronger together than you could ever be apart.

I have fond memories of playing Red and Blue, even Silver and Gold, using Pokemon I liked for whatever silly reason, rather than which was objectively better. I once traded away my starter and adopted a spearow as my "first" pokemon, pretending I was some random Youngster without an eccentric scientist friend to get me started. I got all the way through the Elite 4 and Giovanni with that fearow in my party.

But things have changed. The focus is not so much on Pokemon as a best friend, but Pokemon as a disposable commodity. 

Hear me out.

"Gotta catch 'em all" has always been the tag line of the series, but the point of catching and collecting has gone beyond just filling up a checklist like an enthusiastic birder. You now have to catch them all. All the time. And the game mechanics have altered to facilitate this. In the recent console games, Sword and Shield, the chances of getting a shiny or an exceptionally high stat Pokemon go up with the number of that pokemon you catch. Not encounter, but catch. So, if you want a shiny Yamper, you have to catch a ridiculous number of Yamper. You don't appreciate the Pokémon, it's just a disposable one among many. You, essentially, throw it away.

Pokemon GO works much the same way. In Pokemon GO, you have to collect "candies" specific to each type of Pokemon and an item called Stardust in order to improve your Pokemon either through powering up or through evolution. You get these items by catching pokemon. You catch dozens of throw-aways before you get enough items to improve one Pokemon. But, you also have to catch dozens if not hundreds of pokemon in order to find a good one to be "worthy" of improvement.

Each Pokemon comes with a set of base stats that limits its maximum strength and effectiveness. Putting all your candy and stardust into one with poor base stats is ill advised, as someone else will have one with higher base stats that will mop the floor with yours. So, the grind to find that one good Pokemon involves catching, breeding, or hatching many many many Pokemon in order to find one statistical anomaly that has an edge over your opponent's statistical anomaly. This means throwing away hundreds of perfectly good, just not perfect, Pokemon.

So back to Team GO Rocket. Throughout the franchise, Team Rocket is much maligned for their view of Pokemon as tools to be used and discarded as they see fit. Team Rocket abuses the poor creatures, creating fused freaks of nature like the tri-headed legendary, or synthesizes coffings and wheezings in perpetual pain in pursuit of an artificial ghost-type Pokemon. They often use ultra common pokemon types in battle, the kind you can't walk 3 feet into tall grass without being attacked by.

Why? Well, there's just so many Pokemon. I imagine the average Rocket grunt just chucks a ball into the forest and adds whatever they catch to their party. They probably avoid going into town for the Pokecenters for whatever reasons, maybe there's a warrant out for their arrest, and healing items cost too much. When they lose a battle, they just "release" the random Pokemon they were using and go chuck a ball at the next one.

In Pokemon GO, the lack of Poke Centers to heal my Pokemon, plus the scarcity of revival and healing items, makes it hard to maintain a powerful team at all times. If you pick a fight with Team GO Rocket or one of the rival-controlled gyms, your star lineup could be seriously injured and out of commission until you get a random healing item. And if you place a strong Pokemon at a gym, it must be revived after being knocked out.

By contrast, pokeballs are cheap and plentiful, and there are always Pokemon to catch. (At least, in dense urban areas.) You can spin 10 pokestops and get 30 pokeballs. Even if you miss half your throws, that's still 15 pokemon you've caught. For sake of arguement, let's say you only caught ratata. That's enough candy to evolve 2 of those ratata. Now what? Raticate are not all that useful in combat due to their objectively low stats. Players also have limited space to keep Pokemon, so why keep a low-tier raticate when you could use that space for something stronger? Once I gain all the EXP I can from catching and evolving them, the only thing left to do is transfer them for one more bit of candy.

Meanwhile, I still had another problem with the lack of healing and revival items. I wanted to participate in raids, defend gyms, and battle against Team GO Rocket, but I got to a point where I couldn't revive or heal any of my Pokemon due to a dearth of restoratives.

And then I had an epiphany. All these disposable Pokemon that I was transferring still had value. I could still get some extra coins or experience out of them by sending them into battle or placing them in gyms. Then, when they return to me with 0 HP and knocked out, I can finally transfer them to the Professor's kibble mill in exchange for one last candy.

So what I do now, is keep a list of Pokemon, renamed with the prefix "Ex" for Expendable, to toss into gyms and earn me coins. I put at least one Ex- on most of my Rocket Grunt battle teams. And when they faint, I simply discard them.

And thus, I have joined Team GO Rocket by acknowledging that Pokemon are disposable commodities to be used for everything they can give me, before being thrown away.

Perhaps if the franchise changes course, makes it possible for any Pokemon to be great regardless of starting stats through sheer determination and actual training, or rebalance every Pokemon so that they are all roughly equivalent so we can try win with our actual favorites, or even just make Revives and Heals free in Pokemon GO, maybe then I will give up my life of crime, and once again take on the mantle of legitimate Pokemon Trainer.

Until that time, this is Icicle Ferret with Team GO Rocket, blasting off again.