When I was a youngster, my family didn't have much money. As a consequence, the only opportunities I got to play the NES during the height of its popularity was to be invited to the right kinds of birthday parties. Unfortunately, birthdays have a curious habit of only coming around once a year so I had to "play" the console vicariously by listening to fellow grade-schoolers talk about the hottest games and coolest tricks.
In retrospect, I had little to complain about. I had food, a home, and my parents never attempted to filet me and use my liver for fish bait. But to be human is to be petty, so my lack of an NES through the '80s and dawn of the '90s made me feel kind of lonely.
Now, decades later, my life and business is literally video games. My consoles' hard drives are nearly stuffed to capacity. My shelves are groaning under the weight of game boxes. My miles-high Steam library threatens to topple over like a careless game of Jenga. And yet my obnoxious, pampered self feels left-out once again because I'm unable to play Pokémon GO until it launches in Canada.
Here I am, a Pokémon fan and a mobile games writer who can only sit by the sidelines and tap her fingers together forlornly while her compatriots run out into the middle of busy streets in search of Rattata. I'm nine years old all over again, everyone is talking about the hottest new video game, and I'm staring at my desk, feeling sorry for myself. Woe, woe, woe. Somebody pat my head.
Technically, I can play Pokémon GO even though the game has yet to see an official release up here. Other Torontonians are already playing the game. Supposedly Drowzee is everywhere, and I'm unsure if that's coincidence or a quiet elbow-jab at the stereotype of Toronto being a boring city. If I want to attempt to conquer the Gym located at the CN Tower, all I have to do is make a fake US App Store account and download the app. Getting around the region lock with Android-based devices is a bit harder and requires the use of a Pokémon GO APK (Android application package), but the 'net is currently brimming with the tools and instructions necessary to get you GO-ing.
Thing is, playing Pokémon GO outside countries of official release may be a genuinely bad idea. Normally, mobile game companies don't care too much if you perform some digital wizardry to download games soft-launched outside your jurisdiction, but most games aren't phenomenally popular Pokémon-based pseudo-MMOs that live or die according to the health of their servers. Pokémon GO's rollout is purposefully slow because the game's popularity has caused substantial server overload, and publisher Niantic understandably wants to shore up connectivity problems in Pokémon GO's initial countries of release before it spreads outwards.
That's probably why there are reports of people getting booted or soft-banned from Pokémon GO if they're caught playing a hacked / cracked version of the game outside of an "official" country. Neither Niantic, Nintendo, or The Pokémon Company have released statements about outsiders being disciplined, but given the state of Pokémon GO's servers, it's not hard to believe trespassers will be punished for their infractions. As Jim Squires from Gamezebo points out, Niantic already doesn't hesitate to bring the banhammer down on players who spoof GPS locations for its other augmented-reality RPG, Ingress.
Also, I won't download an illegitimate version of Pokémon GO because it's just not a nice thing to do. Niantic paused the rollout because it has to work through server issues. If I sign into my US App Store account and download the game, I'd just add weight to the matter and prolong the problem. I'd also be an uninvited guest whose presence might gunk up the servers further and slow things down for everyone else.
In other words, I'm resisting Pokémon GO so the rest of you can go off and enjoy yourselves. Don't worry about me. I'm OK. These aren't tears; my allergies are acting up.
"Passive-aggressive," you say? "Self-important martyr," you say? No, as Pokémon GO has reminded me over these past few days, I'm just Canadian.