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16 Things I've Learned Playing Pokémon Go In London For 10 Days

No, I do not know where a Gyarados is.

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1. Central London is a fucking horrible place to try to get anything done, and it's also terrible for playing Pokémon Go in.

GPS and 3G has always been kind of trash in central London, presumably because of the tall buildings, narrow roads, and high numbers of people, but it's really, really evident when you're playing the game, which crashes frequently and struggles to let you do anything. Some PokéStops don't even seem to work, or you can be sitting next to someone who's easily able to get coins, but your phone has decided you're much further away for no apparent reason. But as soon as you head even a few tube stops away, it gets much better.

2. Wherever you are in London, it's far from perfect. The game is still plagued with glitches and crashes almost impossibly frequently, especially after about 2 or 3 in the afternoon when America starts waking up.

Twitter: @FreddieCampion

Those hours you spend in the morning when everything runs beautifully and smoothly feel like a dream by the time you get to the afternoon and every Pidgey you capture means you have to restart the whole damn app. The evening in the UK is not the time for Pokémon Go (though in fairness, it is getting noticeably better on a daily basis, probably because Niantic is bolting every server they can find into a vast pile somewhere in the world).

4. The idea that certain areas are good for Pokémon seems to be true...but not in any sort of useful way.

Twitter: @wherePokemonGo

Green Park is supposed to be great, and it's pretty fine. But no better than any other park, really. The Thames is good – but again, not the river of amazing Pokémon you would hope for. Russell Square is actually the best place I've found, but after about 20 minutes it got pretty crap. In short, the balancing algorithms ensuring there aren't spots with tons of Pokémon seem to be pretty much working.

The best way to catch 'em all really does seem to be walking as much distance as you can in areas with lots of PokéStops. As of yet, there doesn't seem to be any single place in London that's a massive farm of a variety of great stuff. (And if there is, please, please, tell me.)


5. OH MY GOD Zubats.

Twitter: @WinnieNgozi

Zubats are the worst. Ratata and Pidgeys are annoying, sure. There are way too many of them in all the cities, and it's always slightly disappointing when your phone buzzes, making you hope for an against-all-odds Kadabra, and it's just a Ratata. But they're quick to catch and cheap to evolve, so great for your XP. A fair tradeoff.

But Zubats are so stupidly annoying to catch. You end up spewing Pokéballs at them like you've been drinking for eight hours and that kebab really isn't sitting well with you. And the fucking thing is still hopping up and down with it's stupid gaping mouth. I hate Zubats.

I hope there is a Zubat Hell and they all go there. No, I hope Zubat Hell is me, armed with a flaming tennis racket and an airhorn, for all of time.

6. London is fucking riddled with Drowzees.

Twitter: @mgibsun

Aside from the Ratatas, Pidgeys and Zubats, London also has loads of Drowzees, and it's not really clear why. Other BuzzFeed offices around the world don't seem to have nearly the same number of them. It's not the worst thing, since they're big and slow and fall over a lot – they're basically drunk Pokémon, which thinking about it, might be why there are so many in London.

Anyway, it means that they're easy to catch, so everyone has loads of them, so everyone has a decent Hypno, so gym battles are usually against a stupid goddamn Hypno. While you're using a stupid goddamn Hypno. But it does lead to one interesting discovery.

7. Identical Pokémon have radically different abilities, and CP isn't the most accurate indicator of how good they are.

Niantic Labs / Twitter: @euoluke

This is really, really annoying. If you have a Hypno with a Shadow Ball attack, it'll easily beat a Hypno with any other ability, even if that Hypno is much stronger. Honestly, I know so much about Drowzees and Hypnos. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY?

8. There's always one person who is so, so much more powerful than you. (I see you, so-called AugmentedApe, I see you, ruining my neighbourhood.)

Right when you think your newly evolved Hypno might have a chance to take down some gyms, you discover that there's some Level 24 fucker with a 2200 CP Pokémon sitting on every single gym you can see. And when you've finally got strong enough, they're EVEN stronger. Do you not have a job? Do you not sleep? How. Are. You. Doing. This?!?


10. London buses are just about slow enough that they will actually count towards "walking" your eggs.

Twitter: @WGoodspeed

Not the whole time, though. I reckon you get about 1km in the game for every 2km you travel on a bus. And you will always, always come to a halt slightly too far away from the PokéStop you've been watching all down the road.

11. You get really weirdly attached to some Pokémon.

TV Tokyo / Via

I have a Persian that I caught in the wild, and at the time it was one of my strongest Pokémon, but still pretty weak overall – except that it kept winning battles it had no goddamn business even being in. Just one after another, owning much stronger Pokémon. But a Persian is an evolution of a Meowth, and since I've utterly failed to find a single Meowth to use for candy, and added much stronger Pokemon since, my heroic, brave, self-sacrificing Persian is now languishing deep in my squad, unable to ever be levelled up. Honestly, it makes me a tiny bit sad every time I scroll past it.

12. You actually will talk to complete strangers in public.

I am British, and therefore believe that there are no situations in which talking to strangers is OK. It's basically only allowable if your face is on fire. And it has to be a proper fire – a bit of smoke isn't really enough.

In the last week, though, I have had more conversations with complete strangers than in all the years I've lived in London before. Admittedly, they're mainly about Pokémon, but seeing Londoners sincerely happy to talk to strangers is both odd and elating.


13. But it's still a tiny bit cringeworthy.

There is something a tiny bit embarrassing about playing this game. There shouldn't be, of course, but every time you walk past someone else also looking at their phone and making that weird thumb slide motion, you have an urge to hide your phone in case they realise you're playing it as well.

14. You will also actually find new places to hang out at.

Luke Bailey / BuzzFeed

The other day, I took a very slight detour on the way home from work purely in order to go to some PokéStops, went down a new street and passed an Italian restaurant that I'd never seen before. So a few days later, I went back. And it was pretty good! Better than this picture makes it looks, certainly.

15. You genuinely do notice things you didn't know were there.

Yesterday I was walking through Dalston, very close to where I lived for almost a year. There was this PokéStop, on the NMTC sign. I've seen that sign hundreds of times, and I have never even wondered what it stood for. But this time the PokéStop name told me – the North Metropolitan Tramway Company. Which is weird, since there are damn sure no trams in north London. It turns out that until the 1950s, London had a massive tram network that covered most of the outer areas of the city, a cool bit of history in an area I thought I knew quite well.

I'm also now mad that there's no longer a tram going from Shoreditch the whole way up Kingsland Road. It would be so goddamn useful.

16. Pubs that you can also play in are the best.

Of course, the most disappointing moment during that walk was that I found that my old local pub is now a gym. My new one is not. It's not even a PokéStop.

But in terms of real-world impact, since I have been playing this game, I have literally gone to a new pub because there was a gym and a PokéStop that could be accessed from it. And it was worth it – a Squirtle turned up after a few minutes.

Honestly, the fact you can play this damn game in the pub is probably the most important argument in favour of it.