My Pokemon GO Character After The Rediscover Yourself Update 2024
Screenshot via Escapist

No, Trans Inclusion Doesn’t Make Me Want To Start Playing Pokémon GO Again

I have been playing Pokémon GO since day one. I remember the first time I stepped out of my house and threw a Pokéball at a Pidgey, a landmark in a lifelong Pokémon obsession. I’ve always wanted to see myself in the game, but not at the expense of actually playing it.

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Image via Niantic

Pokémon GO holds so many precious memories for me. Playing with my sister at parks in 2016 before she got married, spending hours hunting Ponyta before any other Gens dropped because we needed good Fire-types. Walking around my local park when I was left living alone again, finding companionship in other players tackling Gyms.

We played through shutdown in 2020, walking with masks through the empty streets just to get out of the house. My wife and I played together in 2021 with our friends and family when my son was a newborn and we were too tired to do anything more than go downtown and wander the streets, desperate for fresh air. Pokémon GO brought me close to other people via Remote Raid passes when we couldn’t be near others, and it held my hand through the loss of my father. I loved it and everything it gave me.

Despite my love for the game and the community, I knew things were coming to a close in 2022. Remote Raid passes were restricted, events began to repeat, Galar was never properly integrated, and the price of gameplay skyrocketed. Living in a rural town, we lost the ability to play.

I deleted the app in August of 2022. Pokémon GO, my safe haven, had officially pushed my demographic out. Broke, working-class parents can’t drop their whole lives to go frantically shove in Community Day hours. The game had lost sight of what it had been trying to do: Bring Pokémon fans together. It was time for the developers at Niantic to rediscover the meaning of the game, or risk losing the player base altogether.

Inclusion Is Nice, But Character Customization Was Never The Problem

In April of 2024, Pokémon GO rolled out the “Rediscover Yourself” update. It brought with it a message that we were going to “experience the game like never before” and be our true selves. As a non-binary Trans person, I can’t help but feel marginal excitement about the opportunity to build a character in a game without needing to choose “boy” or “girl” when making my profile. I love the diversity of body types and more inclusive language – and it would be even better if I still actually played the game.

To me, this feels like a desperate grab at good publicity. Saying “Look, we are inclusive!” doesn’t work when nothing is being done to make gameplay more accessible to players. I am very gay, love being very gay, and my very gay person still can’t play Pokémon GO.

If this update had come with improvements for rural players, better accessibility for disabled people, or inclusive gameplay hours for parents and weekend workers, then maybe it would be a more exciting addition. It would have been even more impressive if the avatar updates looked good or worked – neither of which seems to be the case.

Pokémon GO Needs To Change

If Pokémon GO wants to stay relevant, and if Niantic wants the community to celebrate its changes and updates, it needs to change. We need gameplay that is truly accessible to every player. We need new mechanics, better items, fewer paywalls, and events that aren’t just in major urban hubs that cost a fortune to travel to.

Niantic should create a subscription service. I’d pay five bucks a month to attend every event. Imagine if elongated Community Day hours were included in that. A Special Research each month for subscription holders? That would make it worth each penny. Work with local fans to put together rural in-person events that have boosted Shiny odds or special activities for players to enjoy. Give us something to do together, since the game is so focused on “getting us outside together”.

I miss playing Pokémon GO. I would love to rock out at events with my non-binary avatar and catch the Galar starters we still don’t have in the game. I’d love to see Gigantamax Raids, or new Legendary activities be introduced. I want to come back, but a thin attempt at inclusion just isn’t enough to make me want to start playing Pokémon GO again. I’m gay, but I’m not gullible. Give me something worth doing, and I might redownload.

There are so many of us who want to play, it’s a shame that so many of us can’t justify the time, money, or frustration.


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Author
Laura Gray
Laura Gray is the Managing Editor for Gamepur, a writer for the Escapist, and an avid Pokemon, Dungeons & Dragons, and farming sim enthusiast. They spend their time chasing their toddler, playing casual Pokemon TCG matches, and destroying the kitchen with cooking projects. Laura's previous work can be seen at Screen Rant and Dexerto, and they can be contacted at [email protected].