We have some great news for GO Fest attendees: Niantic employees spent the whole Squirtle Community day playing alongside DTC, a local Chicago-based Pokemon GO group, but also measuring and testing in-game mechanics and network latency.

This is the first time Niantic has used a “boots-on-the-ground” strategy and reached out to a local player group, and also marks a very exciting moment for GO Fest attendees: they’re making sure everything works properly this time around.

In order to figure out what happened on that day, we reached out to Knife, a moderator on DTC’s Discord server and interviewed him. Here’s what we’ve learned:

GO Hub: Hey Knife! So, recently we saw your announcement on the DTC Discord server, highlighting the recent success you had hosting the Squirtle Community Day event at the Lincoln Park – congratulations on pulling an amazing event, the pics tell us it was a blast! You also mentioned that Niantic themselves joined you – could you tell us a bit more about the nature of Niantic’s visit to the park?

The announcement on DTC’s discord server

Knife: Yeah, absolutely. That was the largest single event we had ever hosted and it was because we focused on all of Chicago’s Pokémon GO players to join us in Lincoln Park. Niantic reached out to us around the time we noticed cell on wheels (COW) towers being set up strategically in the park. I’m sure they had their own reasons for being there with us but two stick out to me; One was to test network traffic and increased spawns. (I’ve played there for numerous Community Days and these spawns were wild.) The other was to support local communities through boots-to-the-ground outreach.

We’ve worked incredibly hard behind the scenes, on the server, and IRL in our various neighborhoods to establish ourselves as a welcoming, innovative, and quality group. Niantic reaching out to us validated all of that hard work. The feeling I had when first talking with them was that of overwhelming joy and pride for my city and my community. I think Niantic really showed the Pokémon GO community at large a new side to them with this outreach. I believe they think they owe Chicago a proper GO Fest based on last year’s event.

GO Hub: If I recall correctly, one of Niantic employees said something along the lines I can honestly say this was the best community day I’ve ever been to. – what is this special Stardust that makes DTC such an amazing group? What’s your secret?

Knife: This might sound a little buzzword-y but I honestly think that diversity is our strongest asset. Pokémon GO is such a unique game that focuses on social interaction, health and well-being, and celebrating our love and excitement for Pokémon. It brings so many walks of life together. I can tell you that I would have never met some people from far outside my neighborhood—and even a lot right around the corner from me—without this game.

The color skin, age they are, or job they have both doesn’t matter and matters the most at the same time. Chicago is already a very unique city for food and culture but getting to know people from such uniquely different backgrounds gives us an incredible understanding that everyone matters somehow (unless you bring Blissey in to a raid).

Our mods, Team Harmony, are business men & women, graphic designers, nurses, retail employees, bartenders, mothers, fathers, aspiring film-makers, copywriters, and fish breeders. They were born anywhere from 1957 through 1993. We have a wide representation of ethnicities. And we’re a great sample size for the 4,000+ members in our server. But none of that inhibits being able to effectively communicate with each other and respect our innovations and perspectives.

DTC group photo (click for full resolution)

GO Hub: You mentioned two things in specific about Niantic’s visit:

  • supporting local communities through boots-to-the-ground outreach
  • testing network traffic and game mechanics in the area

Is this something they specifically outlined and could you share more about the conversations you had with them? Do we expect something super special at GO Fest? How was it talking with an actual NIA representative – did you get nervous?

Knife: Nah, that’s not verbatim goals from them, just my perspective on their visit. Most of our conversation through email was based on logistics but we did have a call as well. I wasn’t nervous, per say, but I had that kind of excited jitters you get before meeting your fiance’s grandpa that you’ve heard so much about. (Part of that might’ve been the Arizona Tea I had before the call, though.)

When we met them at Community Day, I really wanted to show them that Midwest hospitality we’re known for here. We shared with them a complete package of our merch and made sure they knew where to get coffee around the area. A few of us traded friend codes and gifts, too. It was all really casual. They were just as excited to find a shiny Research task as we were. They joined us before the event started, took photos with us, and listened to our feedback.

Niantic is a company, sure, but to me, it was extremely important to remember that these are real people also working exceedingly hard on an experience and a game that we all enjoy so much. They’re not an empty shell that enjoys being yelled at in Twitter comments. If you can find an opinion on Pokémon GO, so can they, and I think they’re listening to everything we say.

GO Hub: That sounds amazing – behind all the mounting emotions, players should always be aware that Niantic employees are just people, people like us. How is the park looking, is everything ready for the big day? Is DTC preparing a special meetup for the thousands of players coming to GO Fest?

Knife: The park is beautiful! You can see some of it in our Guide to GO Fest. The trees are all green, the flowers are in bloom, and the weather looks to be not exceedingly hot. Lake effects can change Chicago’s weather so look out for snow probably, idk. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ We do have a meetup happening on Saturday night at a bar called Replay (Link to come shortly, I hope). Sounds like you might want to bring your Silph Road Traveler Card to that one.

For anyone coming to Chicago for the first time, we sincerely hope you enjoy your stay here. We’re a very open and dedicated community over on DTC and we have a few channels designed for those visiting our city.

You can watch DTC’s visual guide to GO Fest 2018 here:

Antonio started the Hub in July 2016 and hasn't had much sleep since. Software developer. Discord username: Zeroghan. 28 years old.