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Pokémon Go community days have made the game fun again

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With monthly social events, Pokémon Go is recapturing the original magic

An AR photo of Squirtle from Pokémon Go community day Trainer Tips/Twitter

There were a lot of good reasons to be outside last weekend — that beautiful weather! —and a lot of them were Pokémon-related. That’s been true at least once a month since January, thanks to Pokémon Go’s community day events. Throughout 2018, fans have been encouraged to log into the game at a certain time and on a certain day in the hopes of catching a special, popular Pokémon. But July’s community day was the pinnacle of the special events’ success — and a reminder of how far Pokémon Go has come over two years of ebbs and flows.

There’s a dual purpose to community days, which occur worldwide on a designated day. The first is that they give players an increased chance of finding regular and shiny versions of Pokémon like Pikachu, Dratini and Charmander. Each one has an exclusive move as well, if you’re someone who’s hardcore into the battling aspects.

The other part of these community days is the emphasis on, well, community. Each region only has access to the featured Pokémon during a small window, which means seeing an increased amount of players gathering at local hubs to collect those special shinies. It’s a social phenomenon reminiscent of Pokémon Go’s first summer, when groups would trek to PokéStops together to collect items and fill out their Pokédex.

This month’s was perhaps the best reminder of Pokémon Go’s golden days. Fan-favorite Squirtle was July’s special focus, but these versions of Squirtle weren’t just divided between normal- and shiny-colored. Niantic teased that players could find a Squirtle wearing sunglasses: a nod to both the Pokémon anime’s Squirtle Squad characters and the summertime.

These Squirtle weren’t hard to find, either, based on numerous players’ reports. There were shiny versions galore, and tons of people shared their sunglass-wearing Squirtle finds on Twitter and Reddit. And if you weren’t so lucky to grab one (like me), at least there were summer hat- and sunglass-wearing Pikachu released alongside Squirtle in spades. Best of all, the game remained free of those painful network and server errors that have stumped the developers before.

YouTubers like Giorgio “Reversal” Lapian, a big name in the Pokémon Go community, also widely praised the event for how well it worked for players. And that goes not just for July’s Squirtle day, but the community days overall.

“The person who invented the Community Day in #PokemonGO deserves a big fat raise,” he tweeted. “This day alone will give PoGO at least 5 years of longevity along on these days. We’ve had 7 already but we’re all so thirsty for more it’s really beautiful to see the excitement for everyone!”

Pokémon Go has steadily moved toward becoming the game it was pitched from the beginning: It actively creates reasons for players to socialize outside of the game, and the new friends list and trading features have gotten lapsed players to connect with their higher-leveled friends to fill out their Pokédex. Sending out gifts with postcards attached is another nice reminder that this game is global, and even if you’re in an area that’s hurting for PokéStops, getting mail from an in-game friend and building up a relationship feels good.

It’s easy to lean on the “collect ‘em all” slogan for Pokémon when boiling down its thesis. But Pokémon has always been more than that. It’s always been about friendship with trainers and Pokémon, set in a world that emboldens players with a spirit of adventure. Pokémon Go still has work to do on those levels — online limitations force trading to be a local experience — but this renewed sense of confidence in the community is paying off and bringing us back in.