Swiping through Tinder is a tedious process that can be likened to the 100+ Magikarp (read: shit Pokémon) you need to catch in order to get one badass Gyarados. The endeavor makes most of us question the meaning of “looking for adventure” and wonder why so many people on it are “just here for friends!”, until we give up altogether before we’ve made it to an actual date. And if you do manage to get someone’s digits, then there’s the awkward dance of where to go.
As a chick, dudes generally message me with some variation of “Want to come over to my place?” not realizing that I, as a cautious female, interpret that immediately as “How do you feel about me lowkey murdering you and stuffing you into my fridge?”
So this time, I decided to dive in with a purpose: find a hot nerd to go on a Pokémon Go date with me. I figured there were some obvious perks, being that it’s free, in a public place (last I checked I couldn’t play it from my bed), and would give us a mutual interest to talk about the entire time.
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To achieve this outcome, the first thing I did was make my trainer avatar my main photo on Tinder, because I figured nothing says “I’m ready to go” quite like my hot AF Pokéversion doppelganger. I tried to make my bio as punny as possible, not realizing I would shortly be awakened to a whole world of Pokémon sexual innuendo.
If I was going to find someone who wanted to meet up to play Pokémon off the bat, I thought I needed to be a little open-minded. At first, I swiped indiscriminately, until I noticed plenty of folks had already added Pokémon Go to their list of acceptable date activities within their bios.
Seeing other like-minded folks gave me the confidence to sift through the numerous messages of “Girl, can I take a Pikachu?”, “Do you Squirtle?”, and “I can give you something to Rhydon 2nite.” Needless to say, these folks didn’t actually want to go on a date. For the most part though, the people who were actually interested in playing Pokémon were respectful and playful.
I ended up choosing a classically trained french chef who shall henceforth be referred to as “Brock.” He seemed more like a Legendary Pokémon and less like a basic Pidgey. Brock claimed he would “catch me a Rapidash,” something that made me a bit skeptical as trainers can’t transfer Pokémon to each other, but he said he knew a really good spot. We made plans to meet up the next Saturday at Cesar Chavez Park, a large park with a community center in downtown Long Beach adjacent to the 710 freeway.
Saturday came and I was staring at myself in front of the mirror wondering what to wear to a Pokédate. I threw on a motley assortment of athletic wear, a baseball cap, and of course, a fanny-pack. I tucked a portable battery charger in my fanny-pack since Pokémon Go kills battery faster than Snapchat.
The best part of playing Pokémon Go on the date (besides it being free) was that we never lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. As we kept chatting about the Pokémon around us, we naturally revealed more information about our jobs, our likes and dislikes, and things we had in common…
My date greeted me with a “Wow, you really went all out!”, but he seemed more appreciative of the yoga pants than freaked out by the fanny-pack ensemble. Brock, like most Tinder dates, was both shorter and less attractive than he had appeared in his photos. He was wearing a Batman shirt and black cargo pants. While I normally try to avoid to men in cargo pants, the Batman shirt and his wide, easy smile were promising (and also the fact that my friend had dropped me off and I was effectively, stuck.)
Cesar Chavez Park was Lured up and ripe for the taking, although I found out later that my date had been throwing up Lures for my benefit in an attempt to impress me. The park was as festive as a college bar on a Thursday night: dozens of children frolicked on the playground, families watched Frozen in the community center, and a giant bounce-house hosted a Batman themed birthday party, making Brock look right at home. Grown men and women strolled casually around the park, staring at their phones and occasionally bumping into park benches as they cursed Pokémon servers with the gentle roar of the 710 in the background.
Brock proved to be both a wiseguy and a good instructor. Being at Level 22, he showed my Level 10 noob butt several tricks for being a more effective Pokéhunter, and I used my first Incense and Lucky Egg. Within two hours of walking around, I’d made it to Level 13 and caught a diverse assortment of Pokémon.
Brock, a full-service man, even brought some herb for the occasion, which he characterized as an attempt to make his nerdy jokes “funnier to me.” As we smoked on a bench, he explained the finer points of region-specific Pokémon, and how the Tauros I had caught earlier that day was only available in North America. I wistfully reminisced about my long-lost Pokémon cards and he offered to show me his collection later if I wanted to come back to his apartment. Realizing we were probably not talking about cards, I said I’d think about it.
The best part of playing Pokémon Go on the date (besides it being free) was that we never lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. As we kept chatting about the Pokémon around us, we naturally revealed more information about our jobs, our likes and dislikes, and things we had in common–like an undying love of Mark Hamil’s Joker voice and a mutual excitement for the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. Brock confessed to me that he’s so tired after work as a chef that he rarely actually cooks for himself while I admitted I still sleep with a stuffed Pikachu I’ve had since I was a kid.
Another benefit was that the neutral, non-bar public place lessened the inherent pressure for sex and physical intimacy that I typically feel as woman on Tinder dates. Since we were walking the entire time, there wasn’t really a natural way for him to initiate anything besides holding my hand, so the ball was in my court. I waited until we both spotted an elusive Electabuzz. Tensions were running high—we both spent a few minutes trying to catch it, until finally both of our screens displayed the coveted “Gotcha!” In the heat of the moment, I jumped into his arms and planted one squarely on his lips.
Later, as we walked back to his place, Brock told me it was the most electrifying first kiss he’d ever had, which I chalked up to him wearing cargo pants on a date. We then proceeded to order pizza, drink beer, and watch the new Batman “The Killing Joke” animation featuring aforementioned Mark Hamil as the Joker. While he never did end up showing me his Pokémon cards, the date was definitely a nerdy success. Taking the time to get to know each other playing Pokémon Go before lapsing into the more datelike activities definitely made me feel more comfortable and at ease. But even if the date had been a disaster, with all those Pokémon I caught, I could have bailed easily and still wouldn’t have been going home alone.