Opinion: The Lake Trio – Rediscovering Pokémon Go in a COVID World
When raids were first introduced to Pokémon Go, it realised a vision of the game that players had dreamt of since the announcement trailer back in 2015. I vividly recall heading down to the local park and being met with dozens of strangers, all gathered for the chance to take on Lugia and finally add a Legendary Pokémon to their collections.
“Oh hey look, we’ve basically become the trailer!” one person exclaimed in response to several ecstatic jumps for joy from the group as their Premier balls *clicked* after three nervous wobbles.
For those still playing, the level of excitement felt in the Pokémon Go peak of 2016 was back.
In the months to come, enormous groups started to be a less consistent occurrence at every raid site. For most who weren’t wandering the CBD in the middle of the day, there was a need for organised communities to collaborate to take down these powerful bosses. Word of mouth was shared amongst strangers of new Facebook Messenger groups set up to coordinate raids in the surrounding suburbs.
The years would go on, and Pokémon Go would experience peaks and troughs of daily users and player engagement. Raid groups continued to grow as more people in the area became aware of them. The introduction of EX-Raids gave the scene a massive shot in the arm, requiring huge numbers and careful planning to trigger raids at certain gyms. It supported a healthy community scene around the game through into 2020.
Then COVID-19 happened.
For a game which essentially required people to get out of the house and explore their surroundings, Pokémon Go’s core experience suddenly became difficult to partake in. This was felt doubly so with raids, as huge groups congregating didn’t exactly line up with health guidance for the ongoing pandemic. A fundamental shift on how Pokémon Go was played was unfolding.
Developer Niantic Labs eventually introduced a host of changes aimed at making the game easier to enjoy without having to leave home. Increased spawns and Incense effectiveness were helpful, but none resulted in a more drastic change than the introduction of Remote Raid Passes. Trainers could now remotely join any raid they could see on their in-game map, and soon the ability to invite trainers on your friend’s list was added.
It was a thoroughly welcomed concession that brought back an aspect of the game that had quickly become close to impossible. With that said, remote raiding was never going to be as communal or personal as in-person raiding. Less coordination and communication were required, with many taking a quick look at raid eggs shortly after hatching to see if anyone had jumped in the lobby.
Here in Australia, we are in an enviable position when it comes to this virus. Most of the country is in an extremely fortunate position that, with a common-sense approach to social distancing, allows gatherings such as Pokémon raids to be possible once more. Obviously, with that not being the case in most places, Remote Raids haven’t gone away. However, many have not returned to physically attending raids, opting to now continue battling remotely. It’s an important feature to still have, but some of that community spirit that was prevalent in those early days of raids had faded. It had become a more isolated experience.
Then last week, the Lake Trio re-emerged from their slumber.
Azelf, Mesprit and Uxie form the Lake Trio of Legendary Pokémon, and they occupy a unique position in Pokémon Go. There have been dozens of Pokémon exclusive to different regions across the globe, but these represent the first Legendary Pokémon to receive this treatment. Further to that, they were initially only available for a small period on just one previous occasion. Niantic also indicated that there was no intention to rotate these three through the different regions. As such, they had become highly sought-after trades if you happened to come across someone that had a spare one.
They returned this November, but with Remote raiding now a thing, it was possible to jump into raids on the other side of the world in an attempt to catch one you never previously had access to. That is if you knew someone who could invite you.
I, along with what I suspect is the majority of players, did not.
The need to communicate and coordinate was back, and soon we were seeing the equivalent of suburban raid groups but on a global scale. Massive Facebook groups with thousands of members became hotspots to share friend codes and try to score an invite to a raid happening tens of thousands of kilometres away. People would kindly post that a raid was about to happen near them, and within seconds the comments section was flooded with dozens upon dozens of comments, everyone desperate to be added. Unfortunately, each host can only invite a mere five people. Landing an invite was a task that proved borderline impossible even after a couple of days of futile attempts.
At this point, I took some inspiration from the roots of Pokémon Go raiding. I put up a post on one such Facebook group asking for people to post their friend code and the trio member found in their region. As the comments piled up, I began to sort people into groups of 6 where everyone could work together in a private chat to take turns inviting each other until everyone had what they needed.
With special thanks to Jordan, Uffe and Natalie (plus partners), our group was able to get two of each within 48 hours. For me, it harkened back to the old days of raiding – total strangers coming together, working cooperatively to help each other achieve their goals and simply enjoy the game. It brought back a social aspect of the game that had been lost, both through a slowly dwindling player base and the introduction of remote raids.
The Lake Trio felt like an appropriate evolution of Pokémon Go in a world still grappling with COVID-19. As an event that steps outside of the usual raid parameters, it was a nice reminder of the kindness of strangers, and it was fun to come together with people from other walks of life to share in the love of Pokémon once more.