Over the weekend, I tried (and failed) to become Ash Ketchum. My Pokémon Go level isn't that crazy (I just hit level 7), and I'm stuck in an office in Midtown for a good eight hours a day (not to mention the almost three hours I spend on NJ Transit heading back to New Jersey). By the time I get home, there aren't many gyms or Pokéstops in my hood to keep me as competitive as I am in the Big Apple. I won't lie—I'm pretty desperate to get better, and I bet there are thousands just like.
Ivy St. Ive figured the same thing. She's been a passionate fan of Pokémon since 1997, and is already a beast at Pokemon Go (she told Gothamist that she's at a level 15), so she decided to offer up her expert services on Craigslist, charging $20/hour to "walk around in 1-4 hour shifts signed in to your account capturing every single Pokémon I come into contact with, activating every Poké Stop I pass and walking nonstop to help hatch your eggs." With the game's virality at a fever pitch, this is the perfect time to get in on the hype, right?
Wrong, which is why Ivy has since retired from selling her Pokémon Go services. It must've been a whirlwind of a 24 hours for Ivy, which included media requests (present company included) and an overwhelming batch of thirst in her inbox. I caught up with Ivy to discuss not only her reasons to hop out of the Pokémon Go trainer game, but her passion for Pokémon overall, as well as some tips for you Pokémon Go addicts who are still trying to catch 'em all.
I was actually surprised to see that you hopped in and hopped out of the Pokémon training game already.
Yeah, it was a 24 hour gig, man. It got too real for me.
In that timeframe, how many people hit you up?
I'd say like 200, 300 people.
How many were serious?
Probably like five percent of that. There were some really cool ones but I'd say 50 percent creep, 25 percent media organizations, and 25 percent requests that may or may not have been legit.
I read about how serious your vetting process was; how many shied away after they saw how serious you were?
There were a lot of guys who just tried to be like, "Hey, hit me up, here's my number." I would quickly respond, like, dude, I'm just gonna copy and paste the last paragraph of my post. I'm not going to even respond to you if you're not gonna give me proof that you're a real human being. I did that and some people were sending me their resumes, people were taking it really seriously. I started vetting some people and I started talking to some potential clients that seemed pretty legit, but the whole story went viral and it basically caused any potential client to totally shy away from the whole operation.
I didn't download the game myself until Friday afternoon, and just recently hit level 7, so already hearing that you're at a 15, for people who are really trying to get in there, it's not a hard sell for someone who's really that serious about the game.
Yeah, I walk a lot. I walked 18 kilometers in three days. You gotta be really active; I'm a super active person. I'm a freelance journalist so I've got a lot of free time on my hands right now. I think I was able to jump ahead of the pack a little bit to the point where I could compete in gyms. I don't know, as a girl, being able to kick boys' asses in a video game is super fun.
Were you expecting the game to blow up the way it did when you first heard about what Pokemon Go was?
Yeah, I definitely had been watching it for a few months. I'm a very competitive person, I had the idea [that] I'm going to be one of the first people to really take this game on and see if I can do it. With these games, you have to be a very early adopter and work your ass off in the beginning to differentiate yourself from other trainers. So I did that and, of course, I had that hare-brained idea that I could actually make money off of it.
I checked this morning and saw that your Craigslist link was down, and realized that you retired to avoid any potential legal issues could come from Niantic, the creators of the game. When did you make that decision?
I was answering emails super late last night and I just sort of passed out. I woke up at six in the morning, just being like, "Oh god this is gonna be a super crazy day," like talking to tons of media people. I got a bunch of emails from really cool gamer girls actually being pretty supportive, just being like, "Hey, what you're doing is awesome. Hey, as a fellow girl who's a gamer, I know what you're going through, I know what your inbox looks like right now, but stay strong, do this," but a couple of them were like, "Yo, you seem like a cool girl, this is a hilarious post, super well written, but this might not be cool," and they sent me screenshots of the Niantic terms of service. One of the girls was like, "From my experience Niantic are total assholes about kicking people off of their games, they're sketchy."
They sort of have a no-tolerance policy for players who are turning these into commercial models. So, I looked that up and I was like oh, wait, you're right. I decided that I was going to roll it back and I was going to take my life back and play this game like it was supposed to be played and just have fun with it.
Being that you're a level 15, could you give me an idea of your highest CP Pokémon are, how many gyms you've locked down in your area already?
Actually, yesterday I caught a 727 Scyther outside of the Wilson L [subway stop], which is pretty legit. I'm sure it's not there still, but that's cool. All of my Pokémon right now are between 700 and 800, and yeah, as long as you have that, and you also kind of need to know strategy. Pokémon is essentially an ultra complicated game of rock-paper-scissors. There are different types that the other type can throw so if you have that basic understanding of the game it really helps win battles as well.
So somebody like me who knows a little bit about it but isn't too familiar with what types can own what other types, you can't just hop in and think you're going to own your area?
No. This whole weekend I'd go around and visit the gyms in my neighborhood and take over them all as part of a "Haha, you guys all suck" sort of thing. It lasts like three hours and then someone else comes up and does it and you have to go back and forth and it's constantly changing; that's what's fun about it. It's so new that there aren't any players that are really super dominating the game world—there are definitely some really good formidable players, but you're not dealing with the people who are so above and beyond your skill level that you can't even play, which is cool.
We've established that you're not trying to get sued, you're not going to be selling your services, but would you be opposed to people, now that your name's out there, coming up to you and asking you for the best areas to pick up a certain type of Pokémon or giving them some of your strategies or tips for free?
I would love to start a column with someone. I have a couple of people that have come up to me potentially asking me to do how-to videos that are branded and they'd pay me and I could still make money off of this, just not in a way that will be breaking the law, so that's where I'm at now.
I imagine there's probably a market for the people who love watching people playing game on YouTube might be open to that.
Yeah! I think right now, I've only got a short window of time to figure this out while I'm still relevant. I still want to pursue my normal journalism career and have a social life and I'm not sure if I want to be a Pokémon trainer, professionally, and devote my entire life to Pokémon, but, you know, I think it's awesome and I know a lot about Pokémon and I'm totally down to help people out.
So what are some helpful tips you have for Pokemon Go players out there?
You have to walk a lot. Also, different Pokémon show up in different locations. I've garnered this by checking feeds, I've poured over Tumblr the first 24 hours because that's where everyone was posting their discoveries. Go to a gas station for fire Pokémon, if there's a thunderstorm outside you're more likely to catch thunder Pokémon, for water Pokémon, obviously go near water. Some guy in Colorado reached out to me, and apparently all he's been catching is Geodudes and he hates it, so that's something else... Try to visit as many different topographies.
In terms of gym battles, if you want practice battling a gym, I wouldn't necessarily go to like Central Park or the East Village or the big hubs where a bunch of Pokemon Go trainers are going right now; go to more family neighborhoods. I live in Brooklyn so it's more spread out, there's more kids playing, it's a good spirit of the game rather than [being] competitive. Get out and explore the city and go to the ends of the ramble in Central Park and go where other people haven't gone before. I found a Pokémon Gym in my local cemetery that no one had control over, so I took it.
You can become a badass in the game even if you're not super high level.