Enter early February. Frigid cold beset the northeast US. Everyone already caught their good Kyogre, and Niantic killed EX motivation after a bizarre distribution wave (which rewarded players who may have spun a gym thousands of miles away). Raid traffic on my local 1600-person Discord hit an all-time low, and I wanted to spice things up.
The Winter Olympics were near - wouldn’t it be neat to have a Pokémon GO version?
Instead of the usual Mystic / Instinct / Valor teams, we broke into groups based on our raid neighborhoods. We would compete in events like fastest raid times, most catches, gym defense, shiny hunts, and more. My wife actually made gold, silver, and bronze medals, and we even hosted a silly opening and closing ceremonies (the torch was “lit” by a stuffed Charmander. I should have had it “extinguished” by Squirtle...).
When people are competing, especially as part of a team, they want to perform. I see this PoGOlympic concept as a way to get players to become more engaged in understanding game mechanics.
Goals of the PoGOlympics
The PoGOlympics obviously promoted fun and competition, but I had a hidden agenda. My playgroup is moderately educated when it comes to raiding. We split by teams at least, but if there are 12 Mystic trainers, then we commonly have a 12-player group. They may have a decent grasp of top counters, yet somehow defensive Pokémon such as Aggron find their way into raids. Since we go in big groups, people tend to roll with the auto selections instead of using better choices. These same people are usually the ones complaining about lack of Revives, Rare Candy, and TMs!
I wanted to change this mindset. Since we were competing, the more knowledgeable players would not give information away as freely. This would force the less savvy to use tools to improve. With 4-man legendary raids as the headline events, players would realize that short manning a legendary wasn’t nearly as hard as they thought. It is so much more rewarding, both in items and accomplishment!
The PoGOlympic Events
I split the events into a few categories and limited participation in each category so the same 3 hardcore players wouldn’t win everything:
|Duration events lasting 2 weeks||Most Catches, Berried Fed, KM Walked, Gym Hours Defended|
|Raid events||Machamp Solo, Jynx Solo, Absol Duo, Tyranitar Duo, Kyogre 4-Man, Rayquaza 4-Man, Azumarill Solo (for trainers under L35)|
|One day events||24 Hour XP Grind, Stardust Grind, Legendary Raid Grind|
|In-person events||Most Catches in 30 Minutes, Most Evolves in 30 Minutes, # of Community Day Catches|
What Went Wrong
While 99% of this was wonderful, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the few things that didn’t work out as planned.
Two weeks was too long for duration events! In the end, those events were just dominated by grinders. In the future we plan to allow entrants to pick a 2- or 3-day period over a 2-week span so more can actively participate.
We used the Gym Leader badge as a counter for the gym contest, which had the flaw of rewarding someone for a gym they held for 100+ days (the badge only updates when a Pokémon is knocked out). Next time we will use gym badge points and / or some variation of capture the flag.
A couple events had tiers based on level. This should have been present in almost all events. A level 33 player is probably not competing with a twice-over level 40 player in anything due to differing commitment to the game.
I’ll be honest, I was surprised by amount of arguing and sore-loser syndrome from a vocal minority. If you replicate these games, expect a couple of people to disappoint you. However, expect to be positively surprised by many others.
The PoGOlympics gave us something different to do over a 15-day period. We had a blast, and our community grew even closer.
It was FUN! Everything from competing to planning which event to participate in was great. Since we were crossing team lines, we got to raid with new people. Competitions such as tiniest Rattata made every Rattata exciting. I’ll even admit to Golden Razzing a Magikarp that looked big on screen.
If you haven’t soloed or short-manned a raid, it is quite a rush. First, you spend time simulating your lineup. Then you battle. Then you think about what could have been better. You tweak your team and simulate, then battle again. And when you beat the leading time by a second or two, it feels great! Our group even put up a handful of times that rank top 5 in the world.
Three moments stand out to me:
- One mom in our group walked 40 more km than the next closest competitor. And quite a few people were actively trying to win that event! Each time we saw her during the two weeks she was on foot. She’s not the fastest walker by any means, but she never stopped!
- A level 36 player was able to win 2 medals in raid solo contests because he thoroughly studied counters and weather advantages. His Machamp solo time improved 35 seconds over the course of the event!
- A 9-year-old won the contest for most catches in 30 mins. He caught 56 of the estimated 60 possible spawns!
Finally, it gave us something different to do over a 15-day period. We had a blast, and our community grew even closer.
For 8 months, there have been articles and videos educating players on raid mechanics, with all advocating smaller groups. Yet so many do not listen. No matter how many graphics come out showing the top counters for each boss, we still see so many players (even level 40s) just battling with whatever the game selects for them.
The fact is that it helps tremendously when your raid group uses optimal counters. When they do, the raid boss falls faster. It also helps tremendously when you battle raid bosses in small groups. When you raid in a smaller group, there is more opportunity for everyone to get 2 or 3 damage balls. More balls lead to more rewards bundles (including Revives) and more chances to catch the boss.
Articles and videos and graphics seem to miss chunks of the masses. However, when people are competing, especially as part of a team, they want to perform. They finally take the time to see why they aren’t beating the other level 40s in anything. More than anything else, I see this PoGOlympic concept as a way to get players to become more engaged in understanding game mechanics.
The Plan Worked!
Rayquaza dropped early in the PoGOlympics, and my lunch raid group hit it with groups of 10 trainers. Within ten days, the same people were splitting into a bunch of groups of 4 and racing each other in spite of the PoGOlympics being over.
For the first time, concepts like breakpoints and bulkpoints were standard. Stardust hoarders were finally starting to spend so they could keep up. Players were actively using battle simulators to optimize their teams. Discussion isn’t just about Rayquaza either; we're looking ahead to the Regi trio and even Gen 4. In a very short period of time, we’ve changed for the better.
Our group will be doing this again in the summer, and we expect even more participation with shorter-duration events and level brackets. We’re hoping to add some throwing accuracy competitions and more team raids as well. There’s also talk of competition against neighboring Discords.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue to push our local trainers to get better. I’ve begun keeping a record book of our Discord’s top 5 raid times for each boss. Instead of telling someone what’s good against a legendary, I’m telling them how to find out. While we have a long way to go before everyone buys in to short-manning, the discussion seems to be contagious with more and more trainers getting involved.
Good luck if you try your own version of the Pokémon GOlympics. I hope it’s as successful ours. And if you ever want to compete with us, the Bucksmont group will be ready!