#TeamHarmony - SunStar


By Alexis Yap

IT WAS almost 6 a.m. on a rainy Sunday morning. I had just lied down on my bed after a long night of playing Pokemon Go (PoGo), an augmented reality game launched last year that requires its players to go out to catch and battle Pokemons.

Just a few of the many members of PoGo Cebu a.k.a. Team Harmony, at Fuente Osmeña circle where one of the many virtual Pokemon Gyms is located.

Just minutes into my slumber, my phone beside me vibrates incessantly so I answer it. On the other line was a panicked Jayson de Guzman telling me Articuno, Mystic’s Legendary bird has spawned at a (virtual) gym only a few blocks away from my house. I couldn’t believe it. He told me it was true and he was already near the site to join a few others including some who had traveled far and wide. I get up, put on some clothes and the rest was history.

Around nine people were already on site when I got there. We completely forgot about our frustration from PoGo’s failed worldwide anniversary event last night as we saw for the first time, a legendary Pokemon right before our very eyes. We were all looking through our phones of course and all of us were in awe just watching the majestic Legendary Bird of Team Mystic flap its wings and sporadically attacking, a sight we had only imagined so many times but never really expected to see just yet.

Trainers-turned-friends from different teams sharing a meal after several gym raids. Believe it or not, the topics discussed were not PoGo related! *wink*

As the few remaining players arrived, we began the battle to defeat Articuno. For this raid, a larger-than-usual group is required to successfully defeat the Pokemon due to its extremely high Combat Power, but only up to 20 players can join one raid. We were a group of 13 players, all from the three different PoGo Teams, working together to achieve one goal – to defeat the Boss and get a chance to catch it in the bonus round that would follow after. But unfortunately not everyone gets to successfully catch it. Good thing I was one of the lucky ones. It was one indescribable feeling!

And before we could feel sorry for our friends who were not able to catch, Articunos and Lugias (another Legendary Bird Pokemon) began spawning at gyms all over the city. So we gathered the troops and plotted our attack route as our group grew by the numbers one gym after the other. Good thing it was a Sunday and the roads were not as congested. The last spawn of the day was at one of the gyms at Cebu Business Park where over 50 players were gathered at the building’s driveway soliciting curious stares from passers-by and the constant reprimand of the security guards on duty.

Team Harmony after a group raid at one of the several Pokemon Gyms at Cebu Business Park.

It’s been weeks since that memorable day and each legendary bird had one week to spawn. Articuno was followed by Moltres, Legendary Bird of Team Valor, and as of this writing, Zapdos, Team Instinct’s Legendary Bird is on its last two days.

After the update on gym raids a few months back, more players have started playing again and some new players have joined since. Thanks to the Legendary Birds.

The PoGo community in Cebu is made up of players from literally all walks of life, from teachers to students, professionals, teens, parents and grandparents, boys and girls, men and women, and even entire families that play together.

To get from one raid to another, players commute in groups or individually by taxi, PUJs or motorbikes. Some drive and carpool while others walk, depending on their location. The raids are organized through a group chat app where members report spawns and lead-time while volunteer administrators, moderators and raid leaders help facilitate the Time Of Attack (TOA), the number of members able to join the raid and the location of the gym as the Boss Pokemons spawn simultaneously all over the city.

Each Boss is available for two hours and each player needs a Raid Pass to play. A Raid Pass is available for sale In-App for P29 or 100 Poke Coins. A player can earn Poke Coins by defending virtual gyms where players fight their Pokemons against Pokemons from rival teams to gain ownership of a gym. Each player gets one Free Raid Pass per day that expires in two days if you don’t get to use it. Some players only use the Free Raid Passes they get every day while others use more (hence, buy more passes) as they join several raids in a day.

And since so many raids happen each day, active players get to interact not only virtually but now, also physically in the real world as intentionally designed by its creators, Niantic. In effect, new friendships are forged, old friendships nurtured, and the virtual divide among teams are broken as all players from the three different teams now work toward a common goal – that is to defeat the Boss in each raid. Hence, the birth of Team Harmony…

The gym raids, the gathering that happens at the end of the day, the fun conversations we share at the group chat, and the camaraderie we now share even outside of the game has been each player’s more valuable takeaway.

And while most people think that the game’s novelty has died down, we have a strong feeling that PoGo is far from over, especially with talks of more Legendary Pokemons to be released very soon.

Happy hunting, everyone! And remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.

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Twitter: @iamaroundtown
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