I have reached my lowest ebb. As I write these words, out the corner of my left eye I can see the eternal rocking motion of my cell phone as it sways within its cradle. I have become all things terrible. I have fallen. I’m trying to trick Pokémon Go into thinking I’m far less lazy than I am.
Let me back up. Last weekend the game featured Swablu Community Day, a chance to gather those oh-so precious Swablu candies, a ridiculous 400 of which are required to evolve an Altaria. I’d managed to evolve one previously through hard work, but couldn’t miss out on the chance to vacuum up hundreds more, especially when 200 were available as rewards during the event.
As it happened, I got incredibly lucky early on and found a 3 star shiny Swablu—utter gold dust—and spent a quick walk in the local park completing the tasks so I could evolve that. (I’d love to pretend my son was with me, to excuse this, but he only cares for Sonic now and refused to accompany me.) As I poddled about, I saw a group of five people, stood in a circle, all staring at their phones. I’ve been Pokémon hunting long enough now to recognize the slightly awkward pose of an adult playing POGO in public, so I equally awkwardly walked up and said hi.
They were a lovely bunch. Two ladies in their 40s, three people in their 20s, the younger lot adorned in Gengar hoodies and Bulbasaur caps. We had a very pleasant socially distanced chat, I boasted about my 3* Altaria, and we did the usual bants about how ridiculous the requirements are for leveling over 40. Then I commented how I’d just finished 2/4 of the bonkers All-in-One Pokémon 25th anniversary tasks, and just been hit with 3/4's requirement to walk 151km. “Oh,” said one of the 20-somethings. “I got one of those phone rockers for that.”
His partner looked at him, then me, and her face showed only shame. He dipped his head, and explained. “It rocks your phone back and forth, so Pokémon Go thinks you’re walking, and you can rack up miles every day.”
I laughed out loud. I laughed directly at him, because that was the most elaborately ridiculous piece of cheating I’d ever heard. And when I stopped laughing I said, “That is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. And also I want one.”
I could lie to you. I could pretend I’m a better person than that. But then where would our relationship be? I stuck the words “phone rocker” into Amazon, and up came a whole long list of devices explicitly sold for this specific purpose. This is a whole thing! How many people must be doing this?
Look, I’m sorry. It arrived today. My phone is currently swinging back and forth, propelled by a magnet, endlessly rocking in a way that—it assures me—will trick Google Fit into thinking I’m getting rather more steps in today than normal, and then POGO will lift this information and credit me with the distance. I am scum.
Is this cheating? It sort of feels like cheating. But surely the only person I’m truly cheating is my bulbous stomach and clotted heart. Pokémon Go isn’t hurt by my actions. Hell, all I stand to gain from completing those 151km is one measly incense! And even then, I still have to live with myself. Worse, I have to live with my wife’s looks. My son’s going to ask what it is, and I’m going to have to say, and he’s going to look at me too. This isn’t worth it. Ground, eat me up. Eat me up now.
Update: 5/20/21, 9.10 AM: It doesn’t work! It doesn’t do anything. I followed all its instructions, about making sure POGO was off and not running in the background, Adventure Sync definitely on, etc. But not even Google Fit acknowledged the swings as steps.
I almost felt relieved. Almost, because unfortunately one scoundrel in the comments below mentioned deFit, an Android app that spoofs Google Fit while your phone’s just lying there. That’s it. You tell it you’re walking 8km an hour, and it just thinks you are. And so does Pokémon Go. It thinks I’ve gone 40km already today. Oh gosh, this is worse. This feels so dirty. At least the swinging contraption was doing something. I can’t live like this. I can’t be this person. I’m going to turn myself in to the Niantic police.
Update: 5/21/21, 9.30AM: Niantic has gotten in touch with us to point out, very gently, that cheating in Pokémon Go can lead to your account getting into trouble, even banned. They mention that falsifying a device’s location is against the game’s TOS, and while boosting your steps is emphatically not falsifying locations, there’s a good chance it could get caught up in the “not limited to” clause at the top of the list of offending cheats. We’re happy to remind you, good-natured and faithful reader, that cheating is naughty, and in the end it’s you you’re letting down the most. And you might lose your account, which would suuuuck.