How I Nearly Got Stomped Playing Pokemon GO In A National Park

Image: Supplied

It's 10 p.m. and I'm being hunted by three furious 20-somethings in a pitch-black National Forest. They're pretty pissed off right now. It's like I've lined up all of their mothers, gotten a good running start, and combo-slapped the bunch, Mexican wave style. All of the champagne swear words are coming out, too, folks. F 'n' C combos, mostly – a rural Aussie classic.

The vast, empty bushland around us echoes their rage back to sender, doubled. It's a racket loud enough to disturb a colony of flying foxes who screech back in annoyance, as if they're angry Zubats about to be caught. Like me.

How did I get into this predicament? That requires a little Pokemon Go lesson for you newcomers, and a fifteen-minute rewind of this pretty unheroic tale.

A quarter-hour ago, the Pokemon gym at my current position, on the edge of Mad Max-esque nothing, was controlled by a rival team. Somehow, the developers of this game thought it'd be a super-effective idea to install a major player hub, off the beaten track, in Australia's tourist-eating Blue Mountains.

We're talking about 11,400 km² (4400 mi²) of some of the most rugged bushland my sunburnt country has to offer. You lose it out here – especially at night, and in the current below-freezing season of winter – and you're in a world of hurt.

I suppose developer Niantic's reasoning was: "Oh, hey, Google Maps reckons there's a Scout Hall out that way. Kids like Scouts. Kids are our target demographic. Gym location: created!" The grim reality of this place, however, makes it far from ideal.

Image: Adam Mathew

Picture, if you will, a walking-access-only dirt road; vehicles are completely restricted by a large metal security gate. It's a two-minute stumble to the hall, and the thick scrub instantly swallows all trace of the sleepy, safe suburbia you're leaving behind.

Zero illumination, of course. At night, with an icy wind thrashing through a sea of leaves above you, it feels like you're the world's stupidest decision-maker. The teenage star of the next big found-footage slasher, perhaps; or maybe just a bonafide future murder investigation.

After a few twists and turns, the old Scout hall looms up, lit with dull orange lights that do little to pierce the Stygian gloom. I can't tell you why the local council chooses to waste electricity on what could be The Blair Witch's holiday house. Security? A deterrent for would-be burglars? Not likely. Civilisation has no eyes or ears out here.

It feels so off the grid. You could probably slaughter a pig on the front steps, and nobody would come and ask what the ruckus is all about (or to enquire about free bacon). Given my current predicament: this is not my favourite feature of this locale.

It would turn your spine into ice water in the fricken daytime, is what I'm trying to get across. But I've willingly chosen to be here at this ungodly hour because my "Defense Bonus Timer" is about to reset, and I'm an idiot. You see, after seizing a gym and collecting its rewards (Pokecoins that can only be bought with real money), a 21 hour timer will trigger. You may collect no more rewards from any other gym until the timer resets.

I've been eyeing this particular location, and my countdown timer, all day. I want to add it to the three gyms I already control to maximise my gains. In order to achieve this, I have to dethrone three Pokemasters who have combined their forces to effectively lock the area down with an impressive trifecta of 1200+ CP Pokemon. I've had time to prepare the perfect counter-team which will use Pokemon's rock-paper-scissor system of “types” to my advantage. If I approach the gym at this ungodly hour, the servers will be at their stablest, due to low traffic, and there'll be little chance of anybody rocking up to counter-take it.

Image: Adam Mathew

At ten-minutes to deadline, I jog out to the Scout hall and prepare to dive-bomb this place like a Pidgey of pure malevolence. First problem: it's so ridiculously dark, I flashbang myself with my own phone when it wakes. Reeling, I squint my eyes, and drop the brightness to nothing. It still feels like I'm in a staring contest with the sun.

I quickly melt through the enemy Pokemon like butter. Sorry, but I don't have time to go into details about the battle – but trust me, I use three Pokemon that are all 1/3 of my opponent's CP to do it. It's surgical. A goddamn Pokemasterpiece.

Better yet, as a bit of a middle finger to the previous tenants, I quickly rename a 9CP Caterpie and install it as the new boss of my gym. That's the non-gaming equivalent of conquering Rome and putting a chicken in charge.

With my job done, I linger maybe five more minutes and set up a few Pokemon egg incubators to tick over as I jog home. I stash my phone, turn to leave, and freeze. I think I can see some distant pinpricks of moving light… car headlights on the distant road, perhaps, stabbing through the maze of eucalypts. A minute later, there's a lull in the wind, and my ears snatch the sound of hurried footfalls and multiple voices. They're getting louder. They're also coming from the only exit.

A weird moment of silliness washes over me, and all of a sudden I'm nine-years old again, playing hide and seek. I throw an arm up to protect my face from wayward branches, excitedly bound a few metres off the path, and put my back against a gumtree.

Not much later, I hear the crunch of gravel as three random dudes sprint up to the nearby Scout hall. They're holding their phones outwards, in reverse, like searchlights. When my visitors get to within GPS range of the gym, their devices swing back around to access Pokemon Go.

“Ahhh, fuck me eyes!” shrieks one of them. I slap a hand over my mouth to lock it down.

“Shaddup!” barks a different guy. I don't chance a peek at the group, but I can tell he's the leader of the three. Textbook Moe.

It quickly becomes apparent that the group is annoyed with me for killing their prized Pokemon (this will require a bunch of revives and quite a few potions to fix). They also spot their new Caterpie overlord who bears the moniker 'LOL'. I can tell this because the bemused swearing starts in earnest. Though, to be fair, the guy who nearly blinded himself is directing his fury at a 'servers unavailable' message. I commiserate, and mentally favourite him as “Curly”.

“What the FUCK, man?!” bellows the last member of this dugtrio (Larry). He doesn't seem to have a firm grasp of the mechanics of the game yet, because he assumes I've just used the lowliest stinkbug imaginable to take out their 'roided up Pokemon.

Image: Kotaku/Pokemon GO

Also, I imagine the name to their pain –- my gamertag, “Yourmumsawesome” -– could be exacerbating the situation. Amusingly, they start to use a shorthand of it, like Yourmumsawesome is as common a name as Stephen or Kylie.

Who the hell's Yourmum? Yourmum's everywhere in town. How did Yourmum take down our best with a Caterpie? Seriously, dude, fuck Yourmum.

I find this to be pretty hilarious, right up until the point when the most pressing question of the day becomes: Oi, is Yourmum still about?

Ruh roh.

Quick as a flash, their mobiles twist outward again. My dear, sweet, body-hiding tree suddenly sprouts three new shadows that twist and skew crazily across the forest floor. These quickly wheel away into the darkness, however, as other trees are checked.

My heart restarts.

“Nah. He's not here, ya dickheads” snaps Moe. “Dude's a hacker. C—t's probably sitting at home, right now, with a fuckin' GPS-faker, or somethin'. We should report him, aye?”

I get the feeling that Moe's minions aren't quite picking up what he's putting down, but they murmur in assent anyway. The group promptly re-heals their glorified pack of Eeves, they squash my Caterpie, and reclaim “their” gym. Curly starts bitching about the cold, and the pack retreats, probably to resume driving around the deserted streets very slowly, in some shitbox, hunting for more Pokemon.

I wait until I can see the lights of their car switch on, then disappear, and soon after I make a start for home. I'm buzzing on adrenaline as I go, replaying the incident in my head, and imagining how it could have gone. None of the scenarios are too pleasant. I think I can hold my own in a fight, and can usually talk my way out of most situations before things reach that point... but being out-numbered, by three guys 10-years younger who have their blood up? Yeah, nah. Who's to say how messy things could have gotten?

So, I guess my main PSA of the day would be this: be very mindful of where you venture during your Pokehunt. Also, be aware that right now Pokemon Go is something of a craze. Pay particular attention to that word. People can get swept up in the heat of things, and momentarily mistake silly pursuits for serious business.

Lastly, it's probably not a good idea to piss in someone's eye with a Caterpie, and know that if our paths do ever cross, Yourmum's actually a top bloke.


Comments

    Entertaining story. I have a Pokestop a minute walk from my house and I'm too lazy to go there and battle so this is basically an amazing scifi thriller story for me which makes it even more entertaining.

    I can see the headlines now "Gaming Journalist Killed in Pokemon GO Blood Feud!".

      The funny part is where you said "journalist"

    Dare I suggest, perhaps as an employee/contractor of Kotaku, that you should be educated in to what is an acceptable term for a game handle. All good if it's just for you, but you have put this out in the public domain under Kotaku's banner and does reflect a poor decision on your behalf to demonstrate such a sexually offensive handle.
    I do hope, you are aware of the implications of posting such images and this probably should be withdrawn or just put on your own personal space if you need to show your purile mates how "cool and witty you are".

    Makes me wonder how some comments are not allowed to be posted, but this is OK? Really??

      Hello chaps. You know what I think would be rather droll? If we all sat down and looked at some etchings.

      What exactly is sexual about saying your mum is awesome? You're on a gaming website - I think the target audience is probably ok with everything in this article.

      Article was a great read - I'm not that into Pokemon Go but felt like I was there. I'm a little dissapointed you didn't retake the gym after they left though ;-)

      Yeah, I didn't read anything sexual into that handle. In fact, I consider it quite complimentary. Though with the amount of swearing that these young 'uns let out, their mums may not be quite so impressed.

      I think you're the only one reading the sexual connotations here.

      I'm going to assume that the "dre" part in your handle is Dr.Dre, a man whom has a history of violence against women.

      Last edited 04/08/16 3:40 pm

      Stop Adjectivfying Mothers across the world, some are awsome, some are amazing
      #AllMumsMatter

        Mums ARE awesome.

        And that's all I have to say on the matter.

    Where's the bit about how you "nearly got stomped".
    Great read anyway. I actually felt like I was there experiencing it with you.

    Yourmum used FLASH.

    It's super effective.

    In my experience, the bravado usually falls away when they realise the person is nearby.

    I had a car load of people show up to a gym I took one night and they looked annoyed, they were talking about hackers too.
    When I lit a smoke and they noticed me, their attitude changed and they asked if I took the gym, apologising as they took it back.
    We chatted for a bit, spoke about where we found some Pokemon and I went home.

    I like to think your situation would have played out the same, but still sounds like a tense moment.

    I always keep one eye staring at the cars rolling past slowly when im battling the two gyms near my house.
    I never feel threatened, but you've always gotta be weary - thats just being streetwise.

    Also - you know if you rename your pokemon it doesnt actually show that name on the gym. Just shows the generic pokemon name so they would have seen it as Caterpie.

    And how on Earth have you been able to own three gyms and take another at level 11???

    Im lvl 22 and cant keep one gym going for more than 21 hours... I guess there's not enough team VALOR around me... lol

      Are you Metro or rural based?
      Based on this article might be easier to hold gyms in rural area

        I'm rural and the gyms around here seem to change hands at least a few times a day.

        im in the burbs but on a pretty popular bus route.

        The interchanges change teams every 5 minutes!!! Ive got a gym at a soccer club round the corner from me that was up at level 10 for the passed week! All 2000CP pokemon! I had a crack at taking it down last night but only wiped 13000 points from the gym and brought it back down to level 8...

        Before that one got out of hand i would take it but i seriously have no decent Valor players around me because Mystic just keep swiping it back and filling it up again!

        And now today i cant get any revives or potions out of pokestops!!! 1st world problems!

    The big question, did you retake the gym after they'd buggered off? Make them come all the way back out just for the troll!

      Yeah thats what id have done, after finding a really, really good hiding spot to retreat to ;) I've had one person get their hackles up when i dropped his gym, til i pointed out that 2 grown men biffing over pocket monsters is just silly and undignified for all involved. He chuckled and apologised thankfully. Then retook the gym. I have re-taken, lost and re-re-taken that gym for five nights running now, and its become our way of saying hi each night. Saw him yesterday and he was all smiles. Luckily he was getting a kick out of our lil game too.

        I've had good rivalries like this around the area too. Particularly on the Great Western highway. There are nods as we pass each other, and "well played"s exchanged when somebody drops a roided up Dragonite.

    Great read. Glad you made it out safe although you should of taken back the Gym 10-15 minutes after they left.

    I suppose developer Niantic’s reasoning was: “Oh, hey, Google Maps reckons there’s a Scout Hall out that way. Kids like Scouts. Kids are our target demographic. Gym location: created!” The grim reality of this place, however, makes it far from ideal.

    Nope. It was probably a high traffic Ingress portal. It's all just sourced from Ingress. I don't think they've done anything about deciding where pokestops or gyms are at all, have they?

      Ingress players *love* remote, out-of-the-way portals. They're super strategic! But a 2 minute walk off the main road isn't so much.

      I wonder what gyms are out there on mountain tops - Cloudmaker, Bartle Frere, Kosci etc. Some of those are many hours hiking, and may never have been claimed.

        Yup, exactly. I get a little frustrated with all of these "I can't believe they put a Pokestop here!" articles, when they really should be "I can't believe someone played Ingress here years ago!"

    I thought only you could see the name of your Pokemon on a gym. Has this changed?

      I too am under the impression that no one else can see your Pokemon's Nicknames.

        I hope it was always the case. I have a Pinsir named Nigel I always drop off when my train goes past Wolli Creek. That and a Starmie named Dildax

          What team are you? I've fought that combo of critters twice in a back n forth battle at wolli creek recently. And no, your nicknames dont show sadly. Im sure Nigel would love to hang with my Arbok named Barney and my Pidgiddiot.

        In Adam/the article's defence, he probably thought they saw the level 9 caterpie named LOL, but all they saw was the level 9 caterpie. In the context of the article, either works, so it's not necessary a fake article

      Fairly sure that's correct, I figure it's either this or over-the-top profanity filters like the main Pokemon games.

        Hi guys, author here. Excuse the unofficial account. Technical issues with real one.

        The name bit was absolutely an assumption on my part. Wasn't aware custom names weren't viewable. Not that it mattered; the presence of the Caterpie was clearly enough to set them off.

        Glad you liked the article!

    You fear for your life after dropping a caterpie? That's cute...

    http://tinyurl.com/hyp8jcy

    This made me laugh, glad to see other troll trainers out there, reminds of the time I smashed an entire gym with my good ol blastoise (note I'm level 32) just to watch others squirm at his massive pokè power.

    Haha, should've retaken the gym after they left!

      And watch them all turn around to come find you? Not really worth the risk. They could be nice people really, but why chance it over a stupid game?

    Everyone from the Blue Mountains who reads this will know many, many liberties have been taken regarding severity of winters, location of scout halls, nature of the kind of people around here who play Pokemon Go etc etc...

    I agree with Blue Mountains Resident. This article and actual, factual, good old fashioned truth may not be on speaking terms. I would even go as far as to say that the author is, in my humble opinion, full of crap.

      Hi, just thought I'd throw in a comment. I love the Blue Mountains, and I wasn't trying to devalue it.

      That said, this particular gym is in the lower mountains and there's been something of a migration of folks from the Nepean area and even farther afield. There's every chance they were non-local Pokeprospectors.

      Bottom line: Blue Mountains good. When not freezing or on fire.

    Dear Mr Mathew,

    We thank you for your article submission in the "modern culture" field. While you exhibit an emotive style of writing designed to communicate with readers, you have made a couple of glaring errors in the facts of your writing.

    For your future reference, these are:
    * The photograph showing the "gym" you are going to take down is clearly a blue team gym, and your player is on the same team. As such, it is not possible for you to remove these pokemon from a gym.
    * It is not feasible to defeat pokemon with pokemon that have 1/3 of the CP due to the weakness of type-strength in Pokemon GO.

    These, along with other minor omissions and errors, would indicate to an intelligent or alert reader that this entire story may be fabricated. You have, however, managed to clearly and quickly undermine the authority and credibility of the targets of ridicule in your article.

    As such, we would consider you a prime candidate for our Political Reporting team. Please contact us at your earliest opportunity if you wish to pursue this matter further.

    Clement Wilson
    Director HR
    The Daily Telegraph

      A CP9 caterpie could take down a CP2000 gyarados if the player has mad dodge game, typical daily mail misinformation

      Hi, author here. My official account is borked.

      - Screen cap of gym was taken on a night after this incident (same deal with the photo). No great mystery there.

      - Not going to get into the CP argument. The area is remote and reception is sketchy. perhaps there's a chance lag caused oddities that gave me an advantage, or I'm simply better at matching and mauling Pokemon than you. I feel it's the latter.

      We honestly may never know, though, and I'll be goddamned if I'm going back there again to get more data on the subject.

        Congratulations on:
        a) Missing the joke
        b) Taking the opportunity to throw in an "obviously I'm just much better than you" comment, despite being given the thorough opportunity not to sound like a GamerDudeBro.

        For starters, the combat mechanics are horrendously simple and straightforward... and buggy as all hell - you can frequently dodge attacks and have health subtracted, only to have your health bar jump up again after you defeat a pokemon because suddenly all your dodged attacks suddenly register as "dodged" and so all that health is restored.

        But by all means, keep talking yourself up. You went from mildly funny to maintaining Team Mystic's reputation as the least likable team in Pokemon GO.

        Last edited 07/08/16 10:03 pm

    Meh. None of this matters. Move on with life, such as it is.

Join the discussion!