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Community and fandom ruled Pokémon Go Fest amid devastating technical problems

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Not everyone was satisfied, but most tried to find the silver lining

To put it lightly, Pokémon Go Fest, Niantic’s first in-person event for the game, did not go as planned. Roughly 20,000 fans came to Chicago’s Grant Park for the fest, which promised Trainers (the game’s name for players) a chance to catch a variety of pokémon, team challenges throughout the day, an exclusive medal to unlock, special rewards, and of course, the opportunity to meet and spend time with Pokémon Go community members from around the globe.

Unfortunately, the event was plagued with limited cellular reception and server problems, which rendered the game unplayable for the most of the day. Many couldn’t even log in, and those who could found the game crashed within seconds. To appease disgruntled attendees, Niantic offered ticket refunds, $100 of in-game PokéCoins, the automatic addition of Lugia to accounts (the game’s first legendary pokémon), among other things.

Though some remained unimpressed with the fest’s results, most tried to look on the bright side, happy to be in the company of thousands of other Pokémon Go fans. As I wandered throughout taking photos, I was approached by dozens of people who simply wanted to strike up a conversation and make a new friend. Sure, people hope Niantic’s future fests go a little smoother, but as DJ Mascarenas, who came dressed as a punderful Magikarpet, told me: “It’s more about the experience.”

Photography by Dani Deahl / The Verge