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What we remember about Pokemon Go, one year later

We went around the office and asked our coworkers their memories of the Pokemon Go phenomenon that took over the world a year ago.

pokemon-go-catching-em-all

Photo by Sean Hollister/CNET

It's hard to believe it's already been a year since Pokemon Go (iOS/Android) took the world by storm. It happened in a matter of hours after launch: groups of people started coming outside in droves to catch Pokemon with their friends, compare notes on where to go around their respective neighborhoods, and even passed on tips about the right type of flick to use to catch Pokemon the most efficiently. Then, only a few weeks later, it was mostly over. It was a phenomenon that went viral quickly, burned hot for awhile, then slowed down considerably over the course of weeks.

Millions of people still play the game, but it's nothing like what it was in those first few days.

Here at CNET, we were in the thick of it all. Many here who had played the original Pokemon games as kids couldn't wait to see the augmented reality version, and those that didn't (myself included) wanted to see what the excitement was all about.

I went around the office and asked my coworkers who played the game what their favorite or lasting memories of that time were, now one year after the Pokemon Go phenomenon happened.

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Chasing Pokemon can lead you just about anywhere.

Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

Bailey Whitehead - video production intern: "I had no idea what Pokemon Go was the day it came out, all I knew was that it was going to be big. Our entire CNET video team was on it (like a bonnet), and we spent the day wandering around the CBSi office as well as the streets of San Francisco, filming each other playing the game in the strangest places we could think of."

"This new AR gaming technology made everyone assume that people would be so lost in the game, that no one would ever look up from their phones, so we played on this fear making a funny video that had a girl wandering into a men's restroom, another girl playing while stuck in a stairwell, and a guy walking in front of a dart board while pretending to play. We called it, "What you look like playing Pokemon Go" and it went viral on CNET's Facebook."

Editor's note: Watch the video at the bottom of this post.

Ashley Esqueda - senior editor: "Once, I took my friend Jessica to a cemetery where we looked at the graves of old Hollywood stars and also caught some Pidgeys. I've never played a Pokemon game in my life, but there you go."

Christine Cain - social media manager: "I needed to find a new roommate during the height of the Pokemon Go craze. There was a Pokestop accessible from my living room and I thought about raising the rent by $100. (I didn't do it, but I thought about it.) As for the game itself, I got caught up in the mania a little bit, playing for about two weeks just to understand what all the excitement was about. After that, I just went back to real video games."

Bridget Carey - senior editor: "In July of last year, my baby girl was only a month old and it was hard to leave the apartment. I was learning to be a mom, and in this beautiful time, my days were a blur of diaper changes, feedings and spit-ups.

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Yes, Bridget even caught a rattata on her new little girl's head.

Photo by Bridget Carey/CNET

"As if learning how to keep a human alive wasn't enough of a challenge, I decided to take up a new hobby: trapping Japanese cartoons on my phone. Going on brisk Pokemon-catching stroller walks was a fun, healthy way to get me out of the house during my maternity leave and distract from my perpetual lack of sleep. Besides, if I'm going to be up at 3 a.m., I might as well snag a few Pidgeys in the nursery.

"To passers by on the street, it looked like I was paying attention to a screen instead of my baby. But I was involving my baby in everything -- we were the perfect Pokemon training team. I would tell her about each catch, and even saved her from some Rattatas that jumped in her stroller. Bad mom? No. Hero mom.

"During the first week I couldn't figure out gyms. I spotted a teen on the sidewalk flicking at his screen and asked him how to battle. He was shocked to find someone my age playing -- while pushing a stroller -- and he asked me how I heard about the game. It was at that moment that I realized I was… an old person. But no matter! I leveled up those Pidgeys, learned how to fight in gyms, and beat those pesky neighborhood kids a few times.

"A few months later, I stopped playing and never returned.

"My girl won't remember our training, but when she gets a little older, she'll someday ask me what she was like when she was a baby. And I'll tell her the type of stories that all parents tell their kids -- like how awesome she was for not crying when mommy tracked down and captured a Vulpix."

Justin Cauchon - product manager: "As an obsessed Ingress player, I had been following Pokemon Go for a few months before launch, but the weekend the game actually came out was surreal. My usual park was packed with a diverse group of people who seemingly only had one thing in common: they all played Pokemon Go. I remember joining a group of strangers who had only just met each other, then spent several hours walking around downtown Mountain View catching Pokemon and fighting for gyms.

"The crowds only went on for a couple of weeks before the park traffic went back to normal, but I was so impressed with the reach the game had after only a few days."

Lexy Savvides - senior editor: "Pokemon Go? I don't even remember that much about it now, to be honest! I'm interested in AR, Nintendo and Pokemon so you'd think it would be a slam dunk in Lexy-land if you merged all these amazing things together. But somehow, no. All I remember is watching other people get obsessed with it and making the occasional snide remark when I saw people playing it IRL. Pokemon Snap on N64 still has my heart. Charmander forever!"

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New boss battles added in a recent update give you more ways to play the game.

GIF created by Sean Hollister/CNET

Morgan Little - social content production manager: "I've never seen anything achieve such visible popularity within such a short span of time. People are always glued to their phones, but walking around San Francisco during launch week was like a gentler version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Everyone was staring glassy-eyed at their phones, flicking their fingers, fiending for Rattatas. A recurring crew gathered at the gym beneath my apartment. Kids huddled around a windmill in Golden Gate Park exchanging tips and rumors. A mob sprung from nowhere outside the office because a Dragonite had been spotted.

"The fad's long gone, but in the bleak dystopian future that we're (maybe?) hurtling toward, we'll remember Pokemon Go as the last time nearly everyone was unified by an interest in something joyfully superfluous."

Xiomara Blanco - associate editor: "I gave "Pokemon Go" a chance for about two weeks, but it drained my battery life too often. 'Sorry, my phone died because I was playing a free AR game where I capture imaginary creatures that are mischievously wandering around' is never a good excuse for anything, ever."

Rebecca Fleenor - executive assistant: "It's not exactly a fond memory, but Pokemon Go was released the week my boyfriend (of four-and-a-half years) and I broke up. Honestly, the game was a really helpful distraction. Weirdly, my apartment seemed to spawn a ridiculous number of Magikarp. So while my ex was sleeping on an air mattress in the spare room, I was catching Pokemon alone in bed. Unsurprisingly, digital fish monsters cannot be cuddled."

Jason Parker - senior editor: "My experience with the game was over pretty fast, actually. I downloaded it on the first day wanting to know what I had been missing out on. I never had played a single Pokemon game before. There was a Pokestop right near the office, then I saw there was some kind of monster on the next block. It was a Pidgey. So when I got there, I started flicking the ball at the Pidgey and after about seven misses I had a sudden moment of self-realization that I was standing on the corner of a busy street in San Francisco flicking my finger trying to catch a dumb little monster. I closed the game, went back to work, and never opened it again."

Carrie Mihalcik - associate editor: "I jumped on the Pokemon Go bandwagon and enjoyed playing the game for two or three months. I quickly turned off AR once I learned it made catching Pokemon easier. I was in no way good at the game (my main fighter was a Golduck) but still thought it was fun. 

"In the end, the active nature of the game didn't really work for me. I wanted to play while just sitting around my apartment -- but Zubats were the only Pokemon that every showed up there."

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There's something about battling a giant horned Pokemon next to a woolly mammoth.

Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

Tania Gonzalez - audience development manager: "Pokemon was not my thing growing up -- I was into Dragon Ball Z -- but last year's fever for Pokemon Go took over the world and I had to try it with augmented reality. I did not get into the game itself, but I happened to be covering Comic-Con a few weeks after the craze began and it was something to remember. 

"I was having dinner with the CNET team at the Dublin Square Pub in downtown San Diego when we noticed people getting loud and excited about something. I honestly thought there was some local sports on the TVs, but then we noticed that people were actually cheering for Valor or Mystic. After paying more attention, we realized that the bar was actually a gym and that the teams were gathering to fight over it. They even had special t-shirts for each team.

"I stood up to take some pictures and CNET News' Rich Nieva wrote about it because it was just incredible to be in the middle of this passionate crowd. It was as though the whole bar turned into Pokemon Go world."

Sean Hollister - senior editor: "I've been covering Pokemon Go since day 1, and it's been surreal -- but the craziest part was visiting the La Brea Tar Pits in the middle of Pokemon fever. There's nothing quite like finding a giant horned Pokemon right next to the remains of an actual woolly mammoth, or a Grimer floating on top of an actual pool of muck, or simply enjoying the irony of people walking about blindly, staring at their phones, right next to signs that describe just how many careless animals died by stumbling into the tar."

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