My Living Pokédex: One Man’s Quest to Catch ‘Em All

Games Pokémon
Games Pokémon Nintendo

Why do I make things difficult for myself? I could live a much simpler life within the confines of Pokémon Go, but sadly I chose a different route; one with little notes hastily put together on my phone, with a folder of screenshots, and counts of candies. The main reason for this is because I feel bad. I feel awful for not keeping a Pokémon once I’ve discovered them.

As many other people do, early on I decided I wanted to keep a ‘living Pokédex.’ The idea is simple, once captured, the Pocket Monster must stay within my storage system and never be transferred, and I must capture every variant. I suppose it’s imprisoning for the little being, really, especially as many of these cute or legendary creatures will never see the light of day in battles or be left at a gym in defence.

The problem is, it takes effort and planning to keep a living Pokédex. If I capture a rare pokémon which has three levels of evolution, then I need three of them. One which will be kept in it’s first form, a first form to be evolved to second, and another which must reach its third form. This takes lots of candies and a lot of patience.

My Very Own Pokéfamily

For the recent community day luck was on my side. I caught several shiny versions of Trapinch for my collection and could evolve them to their other forms – Vibrava and Flygon. Lady luck did not smile on me the previous month when I only caught one shiny Turtwig. I was distraught, my collection couldn’t be completed. If I evolved my Turtwig into Grotle, I wouldn’t have a living shiny Turtwig!

I do this in the mainstream Pokémon titles across the handheld generations, too. Though there, I’m less stringent. There’s something different about Pokémon Go, maybe it’s the idea that the creatures are a little more ‘real’ as they were caught within our world. They have dates of when I caught them, and places too. My shiny Turtwig was caught in Disneyland Paris, and that adds a sentimental flair to my ever-growing collection.

Of course, there are now hundreds of Pokémon available in the successful mobile ARG. Over five hundred, in fact. With all of them varying from the ridiculously common Rattata to the recent and hard to find Cranidos. Some can only be captured in raids, some have shiny equivalents, and some will only evolve after long walks or when certain lures are used. So, this became a mission. One which would require a list – several in fact.

Planning, Commitment, and Obsessive Note-Taking

Burrowing through my phone reveals documents detailing which Pokémon I need to find, those I need spares of for evolving, and how many candies it will take. There are small bracketed comments as to whether I need stones to urge the evolution and where I must use Pinap berries to boost my candy count.

I curse moments in the news when a new creature could appear from an egg, making it harder it add to my burgeoning collection. I recently hatched the very cute Deino, who came with 29 candies, enough to evolve him into Zweilous which many players would do right away, but I cannot. I need another Deino first. What if I evolve him now and never find another? Then my ‘dex will be incomplete.

Ash wasn’t kidding when he declared you had to “Catch ‘em All.” But I bet he didn’t have a smartphone full of lists which look like they belong to a codebreaker.

One of my notes simply reads – “WHERE THE HELL ARE THE FOONGAS?!” Another reminds me that I need to walk with my Oshawott to earn more candy, and a third hints at possible trades I could make because of course, I’ve joined a Facebook group to fuel my addiction. X person needs this pokémon so I can get my hands on that pokémon. It’s like trying to coordinate a night out with a bunch of 30-somethings.

This is Healthy… Right?

To anyone else I may seem like a madman. To an outsider, I probably am. To the woman who passed me the other day in torrential rain, while I was in the park trying to catch a Klink from a raid, thanks for the knowing look. I caught the Klink by the way, mystery lady — but now I need several more to evolve one into Klinklang. You know how it goes.

Regretfully though, I actually took a break from Pokémon Go for a few months late last year. I missed the launch of both the Johto and Sinnoh region Pokémon. Thankfully, I’m slowly catching up, adding them when they appear, but they’re rare now.

Rarer still are the Sinnoh stones needed for some evolutions which, when eventually found, cause me yet another conundrum as I ponder which of my beloved Pocket Monsters deserves the evolution treatment first.

This break was facilitated and exacerbated by the release of Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee. What a setback that was! The feature of being able to transfer my Pokémon from Go to Let’s Go emptied a good deal of my Pokédex. It was a tremendous feature and it made the Switch instalment all the more enjoyable knowing the work I put into capturing some of the creatures, but several months on and now I need to catch them again and some were now seemingly impossible to find.

This style of play has become its own kind of game, involving tactics, plans and almost puzzle-like elements. And I love it. There’s a simple joy to finding the Pokémon I need, there’s a surge of dopamine if I need to walk a slightly longer route home because there’s a Shieldon near the basketball-cum-tennis court. You can imagine me as Charlie from Always Sunny, standing in front of the map, criss-crossed with red twine.

I Know It’s My Destinyyy

My current problem is the research tasks. As many know, if you complete seven days of tasks, you’re rewarded with a rare or limited-edition Pokémon. This month it’s Eevee, with a flower crown – a needless accessory but still cute. If I’m conscientious I can collect a few of these to evolve them into an ‘-eon’ with the flower crown. But I’ll never have one of each, there simply are not enough days or people with which to trade. I’ve got every version of Eevee’s evolution, a few in shiny form too. My Pokédex reveals umpteen Pikachus with various hats, all of whom are precious to me.

My children curse me when I stop to catch another Clamperl; They roll their eyes when we must stop on the journey home for a raid, where I gather with my Pokémon brethren and they stand off to the side muttering about me being a massive nerd. I swear, my tombstone will read ‘he tried, he was trying.’ But this quest to have a fully completed living pokédex is my game within a game.

It was a goal I knew I wanted to achieve when I first played Red/Blue as a teenager, fuelled by the Anim. And while it drives me crazy, I know that no matter how old I get — it’ll always be my mission to catch them all.