Grazia Goes On The Poke-Man Hunt

Could the world’s biggest gaming craze snare you a boyfriend? Laura Jane Williams took to the streets...


by Laura Jane Williams |
Published on

It was an 11-year-old who suggested it. ‘Laura,’ she said, ‘if you get good enough at Pokémon Go, you join a Pokémon team. I’ll bet you could find a boyfriend on a Pokémon team!’ I’m not normally one to take advice from children, but she had a point.

In the two weeks since the augmented-reality app – based on the Japanese anime cartoon of our childhoods – launched, I’ve watched the faces of fellow commuters frown and focus across London, phones close to their faces as they ‘chase’ after small cartoon animals placed through phone GPS on roadsides and in parks.

©Amit Lennon

My Twitter timeline blew up with stories of everyone from Justin Bieber to the fit guy I swap cute DMs with getting in on the Pikachu action, and apparently, Google saw more searches for ‘Pokémon GO’ in the week of release than they did for the ubiquitous ‘porn’. With the app having been downloaded more times than Tinder, I suspected it could be the new IRL dating. Maybe I could apply their catchphrase ‘Gotta catch ’em all’ to men, instead of colourful cartoons?

My young friend-slash-dating coach was right: on a walk in sunny St James’s Park I stumble across Phil, on a break from his job at the Foreign Office. With his big eyes and chiselled jaw, there’s no way I’d normally approach him – but spying him playing the game, I couldn’t help but squeal, ‘I heard there might be a rare Vaporeon here!’ We end up chatting for a good 20 minutes and, as we part, I feel buoyed up. Suddenly, the world is full of strangers with whom I share a new language (who knew what a Snorlax was two weeks ago?) and common ground.

In Trafalgar Square, I find Lukis, on vacation from his native New York with a friend, who is holding up his phone to catch a Sharpedo. I tap him on the shoulder to ‘ask for some Pokémon advice’. Later, there’s Tomas from Brighton, in London for work and happy to lean over my shoulder and give breathy instructions into my ear on how to swipe and aim my Poké Balls better.

With all of them, though, I clam up when it comes to saying goodbye, wondering if it’s creepy or inappropriate to flirt my way to both a higher score and a date. I’m just not sure how to do it. But,

later, when I tell a guy via online dating about my day, he suggests I show him the Pokémon ropes – and so we meet up in East London to play.

©Amit Lennon

It’s a great ‘activity’ date – especially with added pub stops – and we break the ice much faster than we would just sitting across from each other and trading questions about where we went to primary school. I up my catch count that night in more ways than one, but realise: I don’t need to catch ’em all.

The guy I end up capturing – and being kissed by, as our arms brushed up against each other on spotting the same Squirtle – was my own kind of top score. A human kind. A better kind.

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