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I’m the First (and Maybe Final) Professional 'Pokémon GO' Trainer

The story of one woman's Craigslist post gone viral reveals the limits of augmented reality.
The original Craigslist post. All images courtesy the author

Like in the real world, Day Care in the original Game Boy Pokémon games is something of an inevitability: to be a top-level trainer, sometimes you have to leave the little monsters in the care of others, and do your own thing. Often existing in the liminal spaces between cities (the names of which I can admittedly no longer conjure from my seven-year-old memory) these Poké-surrogate stations helped level up your precious catches while you went out and explored the world with your more experienced cadre.


I’m Ivy St. Ive, the 24-hour viral sensation who took the Internet by storm when I posted a Craigslist ad in New York City touting myself as a level 15 Pokemon GO expert and offering my services to walk around, catch some critters, and level you up in the new augmented virtual reality game, all for the convenient price of just $20 an hour.

cafe hopping all day as an excuse to go buckwild on #pokemonGO wish me & my lil golbat tattoo luck

A photo posted by @ivystive on Jul 8, 2016 at 7:27am PDT

My idea was simple: Get people to give me the passcodes to their Gmail accounts so I could essentially babysit their Pokémon GO games while they were at work, in class, getting it on, or otherwise too busy to devote their time and energy to a nostalgic mobile game. I, an admitted Pokémon nerd, 24-year-old freelance journalist, and admitted Craigslist hustler, decided to see if I could take the idea of Pokémon babysitters from the Nintendo game and become one IRL.

I listed my Pokémon street cred, which I had accrued by walking more than 18km in one weekend, training for at least five hours every day, and using my childhood love of Pokémon to inform my play strategies. Apparently, I did pretty well, because soon I was taking over gyms wherever I could. After cracking my iPhone screen Sunday night (in the midst of catching a Ghastly in my neighborhood graveyard), my first thought was, What if I could get paid to do this?


Unfortunately, in the real world, we have laws. As much as we’d all like to catch 'em all as quickly as possible, it’s illegal play Pokémon GO while driving. Or trespass onto other peoples' property. Or, apparently, to get people from all over the world to sink money into your Paypal account, log in, smash gyms, evolve Evees, and walk one- to four-hour shifts to hatch their precious Pokémon eggs. Who knew?

Actually, a few people. Last night, some fellow gamers were kind enough to forward me Niantic’s terms of service for Pokémon GO, and it was enough for me to realize that it was time to get out of this racket—before it was too late.

Niantic’s terms of service isn’t going to take our entrepreneurial bullshit.

For the record, being a 24-hour viral sensation as a female gamer is also a nightmare. Sure, I was expecting to laugh at some creepy dudes while taking advantage of high rollers who thought my photo was cute. But more than 300 messages later, half of which have been the saddest dribble the internet has to offer, and a quarter of which were hungry journalists hoping to get an exclusive with the next big viral star, I decided I was done.

My official resignation to the media as the world’s first professional Pokemon trainer.

Thanks to Pokémon GO, the digital game world and the real world are inevitably collapsing into one. But my story (and the many others I’m sure are about to come out as this all unfolds) are proof that when those two worlds meet, it’s likely not going to be pretty. To whomever can figure out how to make becoming a professional Pokémon GO trainer a viable career option, more power to you. Me, I’m gonna keep my skills in the digital world and real world separate. For now.


Casey Halter is going to be the very best. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram


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