I arrived at Pokemon Go Fest this year not knowing, exactly, what to expect. I read the website's description of the event many times but it still didn't make much sense. The event was promoted as "a stroll through the park" and I was sure there would be tons of Pokemon to catch but, other than that? I couldn't really tell.
Afterall, I am from Chicago, and more precisely, a bit under a mile away from Lincoln Park, where Pokemon Go Fest took place. I couldn't exactly envision the path the event would take let alone how they would manage the event considering Lincoln Park is a, very popular, public park. Well, after this weekend, I have the answers to my questions and I am very impressed that Niantic was able to pull off such a well-planned event.
Pokemon Go Fest is exactly what it was marketed as, a two-mile path through one of the most beautiful parks in the city (fight me.) There were six sections of the path. Two entrances and four stations in-between. In each section, you could catch different Pokemon. Around the south entrance, there were tons of Unkown, Tauros, and fire Pokemon. If you walked north towards the volcano biodome, you'd start to see more fire and rock types. Walk further North, and you'd only see ice types.
This is where the good planning starts to show. As you may have heard, the big activity at Go Fest was completing 5 research missions, at the end of which you'd have a Celebi. These missions were designed to get people moving through the park. I realized this during the second mission when the goal was to catch 10 Pokemon each for six types. The only way you could manage that would be to spend time at each Biodome. In the end, you'd be at the opposite end of the path. The next quest was to hatch an egg and catch several unknown, coaxing players towards their nearest entrance, where they could rest, recharge, and get lunch.
There was a impressive natural flow to the event. Each quest made sense and pushed players to see everything Niantic had set out for them. It also ensured that there would never be too many players in one spot, a smart move considering the technical issues of 2017. But, the thing that got me the most though was how well it worked.
Throughout the day as I completed all 5 research missions, caught my celebi, and walked 8km, I was always moving with, roughly, the same group of people. We all just happened to finish up our tasks at the same time. This was by design. It wasn't until, I had to return to the press tent to grab some lunch that I moved separately from the group I entered the event with and it wasn't because we were together (we weren't!) Additionally, there were no gyms on the event grounds at all. With no pvp, people weren't enouraged to be competitive, and as such, remained in good spirits the entire time. I didn't see a single argument or altercation in the five hours I was there.
Everywhere I looked, people were happy and occupied. I saw old folks, young kids, so, so many 20 year olds, and even elders, who looked like they were there alone. People of every race, ethnicity, gender, disabled folks, everyone was able to enjoy the event. And I was reminded of something, Pokemon is a fandom everybody can participate in. There's something for everyone and Pokemon Go is an extension of that. The spirit of cooperation and celebration of each other's triumphs (whenever someone caught a shiny) was heartwarming in these otherwise trying times. Go Fest was a fantastic distraction, a well planned event, which really allowed, a huge amount of people a moment to slow down, and really enjoy something.