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Shiny hunting: Inside the community of players who dedicate their time to catching rare Pokémon

By Sam Wareing

Jun 11, 2022

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Ask anyone who played Pokémon as a kid and they’ll most definitely look fondly on the game, no matter if they still play it today or not. The iconic series of video games represents a rose-tinted window into our childhood where we would catch, trade and battle with our friends to see who was the strongest Pokémon trainer. But little did we know that in the depths of the game’s code, something rather special was hiding. That’s right, we’re talking about Shiny Pokémon. Never seen one before? No surprises there, these special critters very rarely show their faces, and only the most dedicated trainers tend to find them. They even have a name: Shiny hunters.

Let’s take a look at what they’re all about, shall we?

What is shiny hunting?

Before we take a closer look at the art of Shiny hunting, it’s important we make sure we’re all on the same page about what a Shiny Pokémon (also known as ‘Shiny’) is. In short, a Shiny is a normal Pokémon except it has an alternate colour palette to its more common version. Players only have one chance out of 8,192 of encountering one in the first four generations of the games. This probability gets even crazier from the fifth generation onwards, with one chance out of 4,096. As you can see, they’re pretty tough to find.

Now, Shiny hunting is an activity only a small group of dedicated Pokémon players like to take part in. These adept gamers can spend hours of their time looking for Shinies. When it comes to hunting these rare creatures, Shiny hunters use a whole host of different methods and immense amounts of research as well as trial and error goes into developing them. Here are a couple of the most popular ones out there:

1. Random Encounter (RE)

The Random Encounter method is probably the most simple of all Shiny hunting methods. You simply pick the Pokémon you want to hunt, go to the location where it can be caught, and keep running around the area until you encounter a shiny one. The problem with this tactic is that normally, multiple Pokémon can be found in any one area, so you won’t have a 100 per cent chance of finding the specific Shiny you’re after.

However, some clever player came up with a solution called the repel trick. By having a Pokémon of the same level as the Pokémon you are trying to hunt in the first slot of your party and using a repel—an item that reduces Pokémon encounters—you can manipulate the game into making more of the Pokémon you want to spawn. Pretty neat, right?

2. Run Away (RA)

The Run Away method is similar to the RE method, except it is usually used on static encounters—Pokémon that can be encountered in the overworld like Mewtwo or Groudon—and is almost exclusively used for legendary Pokémon as they are nearly all static encounters. It requires a player to interact with the Pokémon, and if it turns out it isn’t shiny, run away from the battle, exit and re-enter the area to reload the encounter and then rinse and repeat until your target is shiny. Simple, but effective.

Determination, determination and more determination

As you can probably guess, Shiny hunting is one heck of a time-consuming hobby. Yet, despite this, thousands of gamers take to Twitch, YouTube and TikTok every day to document their hunts in front of millions of fans from all over the world.

One such streamer and YouTuber is Lucy, who goes by the alias CandyEvie online. With nearly 700, 000 subscribers on the platform, the creator makes primarily Pokémon-related content and has done her fair share of Shiny hunting over the years. One of her most popular recent videos, titled “I hunted this Shiny Pokémon for 7 years,” detailed the events that led up to her finding and catching a Shiny Sentret, the scout Pokémon.

In the footage, CandyEvie tells the viewers that back in 2013 she “awoke from a strange dream that would change [her] life forever.” The dream in question was of her failing to catch a shiny Sentret, and then it rained chocolate. Pretty standard dream stuff. After some deliberation she came to a conclusion: “I’m gonna find this Sentret. I have to. My fate is sealed.”

Eight Shinies and hundreds of hours later and still no Shiny Sentret. After two more years and still no luck, she didn’t touch the hunt for a further five years. But in 2021, that all changed, and she took up the challenge once more. Reviving her Twitch channel, she set her sights on the Shiny Sentret once more and finally, 12 Shinies later and after hours of searching, one appeared. “Seven years you guys…seven years. Oh my goodness. I’m about to lose it.” The determination is unreal.

Community spirit

With so many people involved in the community these days, it’s only natural that they’d want to come together and celebrate their time-consuming but extremely rewarding pastime. Enter Safari Week. An event held in the Shiny hunting community every year in June since 2010. All Pokémon games up until generation four have an area called the Safari Zone where rare Pokémon spawn. You are given a limited amount of time to catch as many Pokémon as you can as well as a set of special Pokéballs called Safari balls to catch them with. The catch? Pokémon in the Safari Zone can flee from you. Meaning, if you encounter a Shiny, there is a very good chance that it will run away and your chance is gone forever. Brutal.

The rules for Safari Week are simple: Enter by using the hashtag #SWC on Twitter and from 1 June to 8 June try to catch as many Shiny Pokémon as possible in the generation one to four Pokémon Safari Zones. Each Shiny you encounter is worth one point and each one you catch is another point. If the catch rate of a Pokémon is below 50, then a further two points are added, meaning you can get up to four points per Shiny if you’re lucky. At the end of the week, the person with the most points wins and is crowned ‘Safari Sleuth’, but really the event is all about having fun and celebrating the Shiny hunting community.

For such a repetitive and mundane activity, Shiny hunting has captured the hearts of thousands of gamers around the world. Some people may call it a waste of time, but until you have felt the undeniable thrill of finding that elusive Shiny after hours upon hours, days upon days of searching, you don’t know what true happiness is.