Nick Johnson spends his days working a full-time tech job and his nights pounding the pavement in search of the rarest finds for Pokémon Go. In the two weeks since its release, Pokémon Go has been downloaded more than 30 million times, but despite the gargantuan user base, Johnson is the first person in North America to actually catch them all. Johnson, 28, has 142 different Pokémon on his phone that he gathered across the NYC metro area since the Pokémon Go launch.
“I had some very comfortable walking shoes, that was a big help. I eschewed the flip-flops that I would normally wear this time of year because that wouldn't cut it,” Johnson joked when he spoke to International Business Times by phone. He averaged eight miles a day at the height of his hunting, he said, and estimates he’s put in about 125 miles so far.
So he’s amused by people who think what he’s done is impossible, or that he must’ve cheated, or that he’s some obsessive loser with no social life. But Johnson didn’t cheat (he spent some money on the game) and he made sure to balance his work and social life. (He's Head of Platform at Applico, a startup.) Mostly, it was just sticking to a routine.
“I didn't let it interfere with my work during the day and then after work I'd go out on Pokewalks or hang out in areas like Grand Army Plaza or Madison Square Park and catch Pokémon. Usually my girlfriend would join me,” he said. “We'd get dinner after work and then go around and catch Pokémon, and if it got too late she was fine with me staying out but said, 'You gotta keep my phone with you in case anything rare pops up so you can catch it for me.' So there were times when I was double-fisting and that was fun.”
For Johnson, the key to Pokémon Go is interacting with the community of players seen mobbing Central Park in viral videos or swinging their phones around on street corners chasing Pokémon in augmented reality. He wants people to know that it isn’t just kids or geeks playing the game. The 30 million+ downloads of Pokémon Go include players from all walks of life.
“One of the great things about this game is meeting hundreds of people that defy all the stereotypes,” he said. “It goes across generations, different personality types, students, people with full time jobs, people who are retired who are playing the game. It's sort of cross-generational and an amazing thing.”
Despite his prolific achievement, Johnson hasn’t heard anything from Niantic, Nintendo or The Pokémon Company. He’s not expecting accolades from the companies involved, but fans are certainly curious as to why his achievement hasn’t been formally recognized. It’s certainly been publicized enough. And Johnson isn’t hoping for some kind of payday or special VIP status. He just wants people to play the game, have a good time and hopes his 15-minutes of fame can be spent encouraging people to give it a try.
“I would love to talk to them. I think they put together a fantastic game,” he said. “I think this is an incredible game that's really bringing people together in the real world in a way that's kind of unprecedented.”
It’s the community that keeps Johnson coming back. Although he has all 142 Pokémon in his Pokedex he still finds the time to play the game. He doesn’t have much to gain at this point, but for Johnson the value of the game revealed itself as he was hunting. It wasn’t about checking Pokémon off a list.
“I'm definitely still playing the game. It's a good excuse to get out and get some exercise, it's a great way to spend time with friends or meet new people,” he said. “I think there's a lot of value even for me even though I've caught them all.”