My Week With Pokemon Go – An Exploration Of A London Park

So Pokemon Go finally released in the UK yesterday! But I’ve never been a patient person so I’ve had the game since it’s original release in Australasia. (Un)Fortunately this week I’ve had to travel around the country a lot, for both my job working in events as well as for my graduation ceremony (officially an adult, woop woop!). So my review is going to take the form of a chronological log of the events I experienced whilst playing the game, with a specific focus on a particular park and heritage site very close to my house in SE London.

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This novelty of this picture has yet to wear off on me. As I’m sure everyone reading this is aware, (almost) every Pokemon game starts with you choosing your starter. In Pokemon Go this involves spawning the starters in your immediate vicinity; in my case this spawned a Charmander in my garden by the rose bushes! This was literally how I played in my garden as a kid, so as an introduction to the augmented reality version of Pokemon it really did blow my mind.

Because it was quite late, and football was on, I decided to not go traipsing around my local area in search of pokemon and pokestops just yet. Instead I popped an incense and caught the following?

Please excuse the dodgy photography! I particularly like the photo of my catching a rattata with my cat in the background – it captures the moment she becomes obsolete to a virtual pet. I was quite pleased with this haul at the time; I think I caught a handful more pidgeys and rattatas but didn’t bother to document them.

The next morning I ventured out to search for pokemon. I’m very fortunate in that I not only live in South East London, where landmarks are prevalent, but I also live two minutes away from the wonderful Danson Park – a 78 hectare plot of land complete with it’s own lake. I’ve been quite into my fitness recently and I go for regular 10km jogs around this park, this morning I attempted to supplement it with some Pokemon Go. To my absolute delight, every single sign or map within the park is a pokestop!

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The usual loop I follow contains five pokestops, with a slight adjustment I can increase it up to six. I am therefore extremely fortunate in that my daily routine gets me access to enough items that it is unlikely that I will ever have to put money into the game. Whilst in the park I wanted to check just how sensitive the GPS and pokemon allocation is. In other words, would I catch water pokemon as I went closer to the lake?

Amazingly, yes the game is sensitive enough to know the change of landscape within the park. In going nearer to the lake I could find magikarp, poliwag and (amazingly) a squirtle! I’m genuinely quite surprised by it’s ability to keep up with small changes like that. Even more amazingly there is a beautiful, but very old building that has grade one listed status – I caught the haunter directly outside it. The game recognises historical landmarks differently from everything else. As a result, this single park is quite diverse and therefore it becomes rewarding again to explore an area I have walked through almost every day for a decade. I think what I’m enjoying most about Pokemon Go; it changes how you interact with the world around you.

But more importantly for me, there are three gyms within the park. At one point last week I held all three for the glory of team red. There’s one gym however that is particularly important to me:

The Old English Garden. For reasons I won’t get into right now (maybe ask in the comments if you’re curious) this area is incredibly important to me; it’s a very nostalgic place. As such, I refuse to let anyone else ever claim this gym. It was already occupied by team blue when I arrived, so I took it with my Seadra and claimed it as my own. This was enough for me, I deemed it a successful day and went home.


Unfortunately on Friday I had to go away for work for a long weekend. This meant very little Pokemon for the weekend as I was a team leader during an event where 25,000 people attended. I was unable to be on my phone for the weekend, however I allowed my team to check Pokemon Go every now and again. Therefore I am aware of how lively the scene for the game is in Southampton; the density of pokestops and gyms are high, and players are roving round in groups taking areas for the various teams. It was my first experience with the social aspect of the game, and even though I couldn’t engage fully it was really interesting to watch it play out both immediately in front of you, but also in secret. I even managed to take one of the gyms myself one evening, meaning at one point on saturday I owned four gyms!

But alas, by the time I returned home on Monday all my gyms in Danson Park were lost. Whatever that’s fine, I just want my Old English Garden/Sundial! As a result myself and my friend Ryan decided to traipse around our local area trying to find imaginary monsters. I believe we ended up walking just under 10km in the end, and here’s a selection of the pokemon I caught, hatched or evolved:

Jolteon is my favourite pokemon, so this was a very good haul for me! It was actually massively fun walking around our local shopping centre (we needed graduation suits) and park trying to find monsters. It was quite a weird experience for us both actually. One thing, we actually learned things about places we’d been too hundreds of times before – neither of us had any idea there was a deactivated world war two bomb in Bexleyheath but on Pokemon Go it’s a gym. Yet again, the game is forcing us to engage in our local area in new ways! Another oddity is I recognised the usernames of people who owned some of the gyms who are people I have perhaps lost contact with and didn’t know they were playing the game – ex girlfriends, lost friends, even a distant cousin etc. all were holding a gym for a different coloured team than me. This had quite a profound affect on me. The asynchronous multiplayer highlights just how close we perhaps are; as much as relationships break down and seem distance, at the end of the day both parties probably overlap often without ever realising.

But I digress, I wanted my Garden gym back! There was a level 200 Seel holding it when I arrived, it should have been a piece of cake to take it with the Jolteon. But it wasn’t. Often the game glitches, and it becomes impossible to knock out the opposing pokemon; a very weak pokemon can sweep through your entire team and there’s nothing you can do about it. The battling is quite simplistic anyway, so for it to fail to massively and so infrequently is incredibly frustrating. But I’m stubborn – this gym means too much to me to walk away. So I am proud to say that I eventually regained control!

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This is perhaps where Pokemon Go works best – the creation of your own challenges and narratives. There’s nothing in the game that says I should particularly care about this specific gym, yet for some reason it’s incredibly important that I always remain in control over it.


Despite frequent glitches and teething problems, I actually found Pokemon Go to be a massively enjoyable and somewhat moving experience. The way I’m interacting with my hometown is changing. When you grow up somewhere you never really realise what’s actually there in front of you, but Pokemon Go is causing me to actually engage with the world immediately around me. Not only that, but it has changed the way I interact with my friends and it has helped with my anxiety in regards to those lost friends. Don’t be mistaken, I don’t think Pokemon Go is perfect but I just cant stop playing it. I went away for two days and lost the gym yet again, but this time I lost it to someone I used to be close to. Tomorrow morning, me and my pokemon are going to get up early and take it back.

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