View From the Road

View From the Road
A View From The Road: Poke-walking Through PAX

John Funk | 29 Mar 2010 17:00
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I knew going into the inaugural Penny Arcade Expo East that I'd be spending a lot of time walking my proverbial beat, so I figured there was no better venue for me to get some mileage out of the Pokéwalker peripheral. Why put those steps to waste when I could be leveling my Pokémon at the same time? What I didn't anticipate was how the little device would shape a budding miniature community on the PAX show floor.

Up until now, the main function of the Pokéwalker that I've used is its leveling-up mechanic (and how to cheat it): every step you take earns your Pokémon a bit of experience. But Nintendo had a stroke of genius when designing the thing - not only can your Pokéwalker connect with your DS to transfer your monsters back and forth, but it can connect with other Pokéwalkers as well.

Two people meet, put their Pokéwalkers together, and, at the press of a button, their respective critters are on a playdate - and both trainers receive items as "gifts." You can only connect with any individual trainer once every eight or so hours, but as long as you're interacting with different people, there's absolutely no limit on how often your Pokémon can make new friends or gifts you can receive.

I'd already known about this function thanks to Escapist IT mastermind, Virgil, but when I strapped my Pokéwalker to my belt and set out to PAX, I had no idea how popular it would become. My first playdate happened while waiting in line for the keynote speech - the person standing behind me was playing Pokémon SoulSilver and had his Pokéwalker strapped to his hat. "Why not," I thought to myself, and held my own device up - "Pokémon playdate?" He agreed, we connected, and went on.

Later, while I was in the Press room, my Pokéwalker was sitting out on the table as I furiously wrote up Wil Wheaton's keynote speech (to be honest, I'd forgotten I'd put it there). Another member of the media walked past on his way to sit down and write, but when he caught sight of the device in its snazzy black-and-gold carrying case, he paused, and reached for his own. "Pokéwalker?" he asked.

"Pokéwalker," I agreed, picking mine up and hitting the Connect button.

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