FOMO Can Take the Joy Out, Pt. 1

One of my favorite games is Pokémon Go. I’ve been playing some sort of Pokémon game since 1999, so I feel right at home. The old catchphrase was “Gotta Catch ‘em All!” but the mons were distributed among the versions of the game. For example, Meowth, one of my favorites was only found in the Blue version of the original first generation game. I had the other version, Red. This game mechanic encouraged trading in order to collect all the mons.


In Pokémon Go, all mons are theoretically available to anyone with the app. Some mons are region locked, such as Kangaskhan, found only in Australia. But if you can travel there or if you live there, you can catch it for yourself. So there is only one version of Pokémon Go (though I do wonder if they ever thought of iOS vs Android versions?)

Anyway, the game works by simply throwing Pokéballs at the mon’s head (and maybe feeding them a berry so they like you better) and hope RNG (random number generation, aka luck) lets you catch it. In the mainstream games, you used Pokémon you already had to battle wild ones, weaken them, and then hope RNG was on your side as you tossed a Pokéball at their faces.

RNG exacerbates my FOMO in both Pokémon Go and the mainstream games. The Fear of Missing Out is easily shown by the Twitter user that constantly refreshes the page to see new posts. Or by the Facebook user constantly checking their notifications for comments. But I’ve seen this effect in mobile games, and unlike time wasting on Twitter or Facebook, FOMO in mobile games can be costly in terms of money.

And most importantly, when FOMO is active, the game just isn’t fun anymore.

For example, let’s take shinies. Shiny Pokémon are rare color variants of Pokémon that appear to you completely by RNG. Recently I’d wanted the shiny for a mon called Registeel, which is normally silver but colored green in its shiny form. Most shinies you can encounter in the wild, but Registeel is a Legendary Pokémon, which are mons available almost exclusively in raids. Raids are multiplayer battles where an especially strong Pokémon needs several trainers working together in order to take it down. After defeating the Pokémon, each player gets a chance to catch the mon, and RNG rolls to determine if yours will be a shiny. The chances were 1 in 20 for Registeel.

Shiny Registeel

I did about 10 raids before getting a shiny. You’d think I’d be satisfied. But my shiny’s stats weren’t powerful enough for me at only 1370, so I kept raiding. I ended up raiding about 30 more times without another shiny. All because of FOMO: I didn’t want to miss out on a more powerful shiny Registeel.

Oh, and raid passes, the tickets you use to enter a raid, are not free.

Other times FOMO has reared its ugly head in Pokémon Go include:

  • Looking for a 100% IV mon. IVs are stats that if maxed out make your Pokémon “perfect”
  • Collecting both sexes of a mon, especially when one sex is very rare
  • Collecting all the evolutions of a mon. Some mons evolve twice
  • Looking for 0% IV mon
  • Looking for rare mons during game events that will supposedly not return for a long time. Many times these mons can be shiny as well
  • Looking for the different forms of a mon (for example Kantonian Weezing vs Galarian Weezing)
  • Looking for regionals, like Kangaskhan
  • Any combination of the above!

See part 2.

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