On a blissfully sunny Saturday afternoon, I headed downtown and was met with this scene: a hobo chic rando (not to be confused with boho chic as recently made popular by Sienna Miller) was generously feeding pigeons across Pioneer Courthouse Square. An enraged passerby yelled, “They sh** on our bridges, idiot!”
I took that as my cue to start my quest to catch ‘em all. Portland’s living room was crawling with purposeful wanderers: tourists, an alternative violinist (if that makes sense), a handful of tour guides corralling their respective flocks, a reporter doing interviews; you know, the norm.
Other wanderers, like myself, well, we got in their way—playing a game of hot and cold with feisty Pokémon.
Following the excitement of gameplay leaks and Pokémon's beta release to a select number of participants, aspiring trainers have been on high alert for the app’s official US release, some restless enough opting to download through unofficial channels. Having downloaded the game last Friday, I started the weekend as a level 7, my powerhouse Pokémon being a formidable Pinsir with 300 combat power. I still wouldn’t be able to dominate gyms, given that those Pokémon have around a thousand CPs under their belt. But as a novice trainer, I’d say that I’m off to a good start.
Pioneer Courthouse Square
Aside from its lounging amenities, this was a trainer's nirvana: three Pokéstops, all equipped with lure modules that attracted many-a-Pokémon. Aside from the common Rattata and Weedle, my comrades and I caught Clefairy, Goldeen (close to the fountains by the visitor information center, no less), and Polywag among others at this hotspot. Other righteously placed Pokémon at the square were the rampant Pidgeys—no different from the pigeons that seem to frequent the place. (#PutABirdOnIt.) As of this writing, the gym there is dominated by Team Mystic (blue). And with a powerful Pidgeotto to beat, this place really is for the birds.
Here, I realized that the Pokémon were basic af, such as the Doduo. Given the app eats battery life for breakfast, I opted to ignore common Pokémon at this point in an effort to save power. (Note to self: bring portable charger on next Pokémon adventure.)
Here, I expected to find a variety of water Pokémon. Close to the river, I did catch a lot of Magikarps, but also a number of Rhyhorns in the grassy area. The waterfront also has Pokéstops galore, in a neat row, to supply trainers a wealth of Pokéballs, potions, revives, razz berries, and a chance to expedite the leveling-up process.
After the waterfront's Pokéstop extravaganza, I found the perfect opportunity to grab some grub AND more Magikarps, amid poetry made on-demand, cool tie-dye, and a plethora of kids cooling off by the fountain with the Magikarps.
On a quest for more Pokémon, plus dessert, I walked on toward THE donut place. Surprisingly, VooDoo had a yellow gym nearby (a rare sight) with a fierce Flareon. Speaking of fierce, the Ankeny Row scene teemed with life; street musicians, jam-packed bars, and that terrifying donut line—ain’t nobody got time for that! Forgoing dessert, we trudge on.
The Pokémon scene here was barren. No wonder there were Zubats everywhere. There was also a blue gym nearest the entrance, with a Vaporeon ready to wreck you. I caught a Krabby and a female Nidoran on the way out, a sign that there were better things to come.
This house of mirth blessed me with a Horsea and a Metapod. Look both ways when you have to jaywalk to find them, though.
Back at the Square…
Slowly losing daylight, we return to the start, wondering whether to keep pressing our luck. Module-equipped Pokéstops weren’t the only things luring us on at the Square—a big group congregated there, sporting tempting “Free Ice Cream” t-shirts.
It was here that I luckily stumbled upon a trio of trainers led by Andrew Boggess, one of the admins of the first Pokémon GO PDX Facebook page/ “Toxic Zombie” roadie. A longtime gamer, Boggess said he'd already explored parts of Salem, Hillsboro, and Beaverton. He gave this novice some good advice on how to level up quickly: “A good trick is to wait to evolve your Pokémon ‘til you have a few, then use a lucky egg (Note: you can either purchase them or wait until you reach level 9) and evolve them all at the same time. You'll get the double XP from the egg for all the evolves that normally give you a few thousand XP already.”
(Note: Not only does using a lucky egg double your XP and make evolving your Pokémon really easy, whenever you evolve a Pokémon, it increases your Pokémon's HP and CP, which gets you ever-closer to being ready to battle the meganerds in the gyms.)
Boggess also offered some reflections on the game.
“It was really cool to see people interacting at the different lures," he says. "I set one over at a park and within two minutes, there was about 10–20 people there all catching Pokémon. I've been a gamer all my life and when online gaming became a thing I was sort of devastated, because a lot of my fondest memories are of my friends and I gathering around the n64 or PlayStation, etc. Online gaming killed that experience, so now with Pokémon GO, it's really bringing that social interaction back. It's amazing to see.”