Welcome to our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans, nagging questions, and whatever else we feel like talking about. No matter what the topic, we invite everyone in the comments to tell us: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
If you played the original Pokémon games back when they were released, chances are you heard about The Truck. If you did some sly maneuvering and somehow got a Pokémon that knew Surf before the S.S. Anne left its port, you could swim across the water in front of the boat and find a pick-up truck parked on the dock for no apparent reason. This mysterious vehicle became the star of a Pokémon urban legend, the kind of nigh unverifiable “secret” that spread through playgrounds like chicken pox. If you move the truck, the myth goes, you can find and catch Mew, the not-so-secret 151st pocket monster who’s only otherwise available through some arcane glitches.
There is no way to move the truck—just like there’s no one named Sheng Long in Street Fighter II, no nude code in Tomb Raider, and no way to revive Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. The list of these pre-internet gaming myths is long and ridiculous, a product of a time where communication was more limited to physical communities and mutable word of mouth. Games were no less or more mysterious then as they are now, it’s just that players had the same insatiable desire for explanations—in this case the question was: We know Mew exists, but where the hell is it?—without the same resources for finding answers and disproving baloney.
Leave it to Pokémon Go to revive that pre-internet rumor mill. For as simple as the game appears, it has lots of unspoken details and apparent randomness, two things mastery-minded video game players abhor and will look to subvert at all costs. Between the secrecy and the game’s humongous following, it’s perfect fodder for some old-school urban legends. And while the internet is doing its best Mythbusters routine and weeding out the misinformation from the game’s earliest days, it was also the real driving force behind the hot and heavy rumors of the game’s first weeks. Facebook became the new schoolyard, as players posted crappy JPGs explaining how to predict your Eevee’s evolution based on its moves or photos that “proved” Ghost Pokémon are more likely to show up in cemeteries. And in their hurry to get as much Pokémon Go-related clickables onto the internet as possible, lots of websites ended up spreading the myths. You can save battery life by using downloaded Google Map data. If you tap a missed Pokéball before it disappears, you’ll pick it back up. If you see rustling leaves on the map, that means a Pokémon is waiting there. The tracker emits a green pulse when you’re walking in the direction of your selected Pokémon. All of those tips were widely circulated as fact and none of them seem to be true.
It’s fascinating to watch a game built from the height of technological wizardry drum up this kind of lawless factual hysteria, a phenomenon that seems way more at home in 1996 than 2016. The reality is Pokémon Go is so bad at communicating what anything does that people are grasping at straws for explanations. Especially now that a widespread bug has completely obfuscated the act of tracking Pokémon, people are desperate for consistent hunting methods. All logic would dictate that rustling leaves are a sign of nearby Pokémon, and so that trick gets passed around. The truth is sometimes monsters show up in the leaves and sometimes they don’t, but why would the leaves be in the game at all if they don’t really mean anything? (One explanation is that Pokémon should always show up inside rustling leaves, but this game is so busted that it’s just not working.)
Of course, the internet is just as powerful a tool for truth as it is misinformation. Many of Pokémon Go’s myths have been busted, and internet sleuths have dug up all kinds of other secrets using the powers of math and crowd sourcing, like the hidden stats for each species of Pokémon and even a formula to determine if that Dratini you caught will yield a statistically perfect Dragonite. That Pokémon Go is hiding this depth—an act borrowed from the traditional Pokémon games—is kind of amazing, and that there are people who will go to any lengths to break a game down and play at maximum scientific efficiency means it was never going to stay hidden for long.
Me? Well, I’ll probably still be playing over the weekend, but I’m in the camp that’s happy to just wander my neighborhood and snatch a critter every once in a while. That said, I’m endlessly entertained by all these crazy myths, and the even crazier realities, that come out of the game. Given a few more weeks, I’m sure people will finally figure out how Pokémon Go works—if Niantic bothers to fix that damn three-footprints bug—but until then, don’t believe everything you read on the internet.