You might play Pokémon Go for fun, but for 24-year-old Benny Affonso, it’s a much, much more serious endeavour.
Affonso, who is one of the top players in Los Angeles at level 33 (as Asmoris), recently quit his job to play the game full time.
“I stay up till 5 AM playing at night,” Affonso tells Business Insider. “I need to go to every event.”
Events, and bringing people together, are a key of both what Affonso loves about Pokémon Go, and how it sees a financial path for himself in it.
“I’m extremely poor,” Affonso says. “I was a cashier [at a grocery store] before this.” Affonso also previously worked as a manager at a Burger King and as part-time painting instructor. He went to school for illustration.
But Affonso thinks Pokémon Go could be his ticket to making money. His plan is to be the equivalent of a club promoter, but for Pokémon Go. “It’s so simple!” he exclaims. He will use his status in the game to bring people to events, and businesses will pay him for that, he explains.
He scoffs at businesses that aren’t working to lure in Pokémon Go players. “You are missing out on money,” he says.
Early on in Pokémon Go, players are prompted to join one of three colour-coded teams — Team Mystic (Blue), Team Valor (Red), and the least popular of the three, Team Instinct (Yellow).
Those teams play into the competitive aspect of Pokémon Go. Players are fighting to take over “Gyms,” specially-designated real-life locations. If your team is in control of the Gym, you can help reinforce it by placing your own Pokémon. But if a rival team owns that Gym, you can combine your forces with your teammates to take it down and stake your territory.
This gives Pokémon Go the potential for spontaneous, huge battles that people have to go to in person. Affonso points to an event last week at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, where players from the three Pokémon Go teams competed to see who could hold a “Gym” the longest.
Instinct, the team Affonso is a part of, won.
It’s no accident that Affonso has chosen Team Instinct, the underdog one, the least-popular.
“I’ve never been much of a mainstream person,” he says. “I’ve been an outcast my entire life … I always go for the least valued.” Affonso identifies with the oft-mocked yellow team. But it’s not just that. He also loves the challenge of having to work harder to win, he says.
At the tournament in Los Angeles, he said he was giving out his advice to his team about how to work around the various software bugs that have plagued Pokémon Go. “That’s how we win,” he says. “Information.”
Affonso spends most of his day roaming around playing Pokémon Go, chatting with other players. They often come up to him because he dresses up as a Pokémon trainer when he goes out.
“I’ve made so many friends,” he says. The social aspect of the game is what Affonso loves, and it’s also where he sees his financial future. He doesn’t care about catching them all, like Brooklyn’s Nick Johnson, who is currently on a sponsored trip around the world in pursuit of that dream.
Here’s why Affonso loves the game: “There’s this sense of discovery, beating the odds, making friends, levelling up to get stronger,” he says effervescently. “Real life just can’t emulate.”
But Affonso hopes his success in Pokémon Go can translate into real life — at least with regards to money. There will be players who make loads of cash off of the game, the leaders, he maintains.
He wants one of them to be him.
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