This week, Pokemon Go Trading and Friends were finally announced. This is the news that Pokemon Go players have been waiting years for, and we have all been eagerly awaiting the update that would push the new features onto our accounts.
That push began last night, with players at level 30 or above now able to friend one another, and trade Pokemon, and send one another gifts inside the game.
Only there’s a hitch.
You see, at no point in all the excitement and constant flurry of tweets from the developers about the new features, did anyone at Pokemon Go think to mention that this feature would only be available to players over the age of 13.
That means that kids, no matter what level they have made it to in the game, are now locked out of Pokemon Go‘s newest features.
The restriction has more of an effect than simply not being able to friend other players, too.
In-game friends are able to send one another gifts which may contain special eggs. These eggs are the only way to catch the new Alolan Pokemon that were released with the update.
This means kids are now completely blocked from any chance at completing their Pokedex, and as Pokemon Go trading is blocked from them too, they have even less chance at obtaining rare and regional Pokemon than adults who can trade with well-traveled friends.
This restriction is ridiculous and completely unfair to Pokemon Go‘s youngest fans, who are often it’s most enthusiastic.
While I agree that a level of parental restriction should absolutely be required for making in-game friends, it should be up to us as parents to make those decisions by approving either the friendship feature as a whole or by approving friend requests on a case by case basis.
A look at the official Pokemon website shows that parents can approve different Social Settings for the Online Trading Card Game, choosing between a Closed account which is unable to accept friends, chat, or trade, an Open account which allows full access to all features, or a Limited account which is between the two.
It makes no sense that a similar system has not been implemented for Pokemon Go, especially considering that friendships in Pokemon Go are far “safer” for children in that there is no chat feature nor ability to see any location or personal information.
As it stands, children under 13 cannot even be friends with their own parents, their siblings, or their school friends, and as this then locks them out of many other features including trading, several new Pokemon, gifts, and in-game bonuses, this has turned Pokemon Go – a game focused on the concept of community and working together with others – into a hugely unfair system.
I hope the people at Pokemon Go fix this imbalance quickly in order to restore fairness to the game.
For now, I’ll just wait here dreading the moment the school bell rings and I have to inform my excited eight-year-old that no, we can’t become best friends in Pokemon Go after all.