Here's What Playing Pokemon Go is Like for a 42-Year-Old Man Living on a Remote Island

By Gary Cutlack on at

They've been trying to get me to write something about Pokemon Go for, what, a fortnight? But I've been refusing as I'm old, haven't got enough space on my phone, and have never played a Pokemon at all so am immune to its nostalgia and definitely won't like or understand it.

"But," they said, "it would be interesting to see what happens when you live in a field by the sea and haven't got a decent data connection," and I suppose they're right. And it's better than writing about Top Gear and Brexit, so let's see how broken Pokemon Go is when away from the H+ masts and complimentary coffee shop Wi-Fi you lucky people get to waft between on your microscooters all day, while I suffer from only having a "G" on my phone.

As you may or may not know, Pokemon Go's data comes from Ingress, another mobile AR game from Niantic Labs, which relied on users collecting information about local attractions for use in the game. Ingress' portals have essentially been converted into Poke Stops and gyms, but have enough landmarks been captured to make the Pokemon Go version of this Scottish island with a population of 3,000 anything other than a fun vacuum?

So here we are. Stupid game. I had to delete numerous photographs of my vegetable garden to fit it on. The good news is that the GPS works here as the only thing we have outside is loads of sky, so the game does at least function on a basic level, and on a full level when inside and connected to Wi-Fi.

Now, I'm led to believe from the endless postings of the game-playing 40-year-old manchildren on Twitter that I used to be friends with, that Pokemon Go is based around seeing Pokemon superimposed on a map of the real world, then catching them and talking about it on Twitter all day as if it's as important and interesting as politics or the Labour party.

But in the countryside, where there's no mobile data apart from a next to useless 2G "G" connection -- that the game will use, but is so slow you end up having to wait for bits of road to load before your eyes -- there's very little to do. So I can clear out the house of Pokemon, at least. But there aren't any. I can see the sea out of the window, which should mean I can get the water ones from within Wi-Fi range, but there aren't any out there, either. So so far, I've sat in bed, looking at a character standing in a bleak and empty environment, while a Pokemon spawns about once every five minutes. I press a button. I catch the Pokemon. I am not having fun. So I suppose I'd better put some trousers on and go outside.

Now, when you live in nowhere, you learn where the good mobile data connections are found (a bit like playing Pokemon Go, but actually useful), building up a map in your head of when to park up and check your phone because there's a nice bit of signal sneaking between the gaps in the hills or bouncing off a rock. If I walk up to the top of this hill I can connect to the H+ signal that, I think, comes from the community 4G mast out there on Coll. Now the game starts updating again, and look, a proper mobile data connection like it's 2008.

So it works, but even when you do go from a G connection to an H+ it spends ages loading data. It appears to want to load map files before Pokemon locations, so, even sitting here on the H+ connection for 10 minutes, nothing turns up. Perhaps that's because it's taking ages to load once connected (rubbish) or this is a featureless bit of country road where it's decided it's too boring to bother placing any Pokemon (also rubbish). Either way, nothing's happened yet.

The only real landmark around here is this broken old church. It doesn't have free Wi-Fi, funnily enough, so there's nothing to do here. There is no Pokemon Gym. It's odd that the game doesn't buffer a lump of map and all the available Pokemon within a certain radius, as then it'd be possible to find them up hills and in valleys where there's no signal. To have it completely stop doing anything when there's no signal is bizarre.

If you've never played Pokemon before, it's a weird experience. You have to collect things to which you have no emotional attachment because you've never played Pokemon before, for no particular reason, and at a very slow pace, under certain network conditions. I'd rather be playing Super Hexagon, as Pokemon Go feels like something that comes free with Huawei phones to demonstrate the GPS and camera tools rather than a game with £79.99 in-app purchases.

Not for the first time, I'm feeling old and out of the loop. I'd give it 2/5 but I don't think this is supposed to be a review, they just wanted me to say if it works or not.

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