15th July 2016
Pokemon Go – Fad or Future?
When Satoshi Tajiri created the Pokemon franchise in 1996 (based off of his childhood hobby of collecting insects!), the technology behind augmented reality was mainly just a fixture of sci-fi fantasies. Now here we are twenty years later and we have people young and old running around trying to catch Pokemon on their mobile phones.
While I’ve not had the chance to hop on the bandwagon yet (Pokemon Go was only released in the Google Play store for Android users yesterday), I have downloaded the app and will hopefully have some time to play it this weekend. Why would an adult female be interested in giving a second glance to a game that was popular in her childhood? Apart from the much needed escapism from everything going on in the world, it’s a pretty impressive piece of app development. Augmented reality, while not a new technology, hasn’t been introduced to consumers in such a seamless way until now. It’s a really clever way to leverage this technology and capitalising on the cute and nostalgia factors Pokemon already has is an unbeatable combination.
The use of geolocation in relation to the already well established Google Maps API and reference to the Pokemon’s characteristics is also a great match. Pokemon that are water-element Pokemon are found near water sources and grass-element Pokemon are found in fields and grassy areas. This seems to be a pretty natural match, employing a logic that makes the game seem all the more “real” for players. That’s the whole point of augmented reality; enhancing or supplementing the real world in a coherent, harmonious way. So whether you want to play or not, you have to admire how well thought through the app and its business model is. For a brilliant case study that analyses what keeps people coming back to the app, I recommend reading “What makes Pokemon Go so Addictive?”
My history with Pokemon is pretty much the same story as a whole bunch of other kids from my generation. I was never really an avid collector of the Pokemon card game but I was, however, sucked into playing Pokemon (Blue) on my Gameboy Color. Being able to trade my caught Pokemon with friends was great fun and trying to obtain all the badges really hooked us all in.
Roll on a good few years, and after missing the slew of Pokemon games released on Nintendo DS (I don’t have a DS and didn’t ‘have time’ to get one to play it), this thing Pokemon Go came about. And just out of reach, too. Or was it…
After spending a few days walking around North Shields with my fellow Pokemon Trainer, Mr. C Rutherford, I’ve came to the conclusion that Pokemon Go is right up my street and a whole lot of fun.
The knowing glances across the park from a stranger when you’re both heading towards a Pokestop, the subtle winks to a fellow Valor member in the car park when you take a Gym, the excited ‘squee’ from a passer by when a rare Pokemon appears and then the swift extraction of your own phone from your pocket to see what you’re missing.
Yes, it’s a little awkward when you walk past someone who clearly doesn’t know what you’re doing waving your phone around talking about Jigglypuffs and Squirtles, and yes, it’s also a little awkward when you walk past someone who knows EXACTLY what you’re up to, but that’s what makes it even better.
And it’s not just the ability to fulfil my childhood dream being a Pokemon Trainer, my Fitbit has never tracked so many steps during a lunch break! I think it’s great that you have to physically get up and move around to take part. Pokemon Go could be the thing to bring social gaming to the masses. That’s not to say there aren’t potential problems with bad people capitalising on vulnerable Pokemon trainers wandering the streets with their head buried in their phone. That aside, the sub reddit for Pokemon Go is littered with heartwarming tales of people helping others to achieve their goals and impromptu social evenings out at Pokestops across the globe. I could probably go on about this a lot more, so you can see I have gone full nerd on this one (as if Hearthstone and Overwatch wasn’t enough).
If you know of any rare Pokemon spawn points, hit us up! Go team Valor!
I fall into the age bracket in which Pokemon Go is pure nostalgia. It’s choosing Red or Blue for your Gameboy. It’s deciding to go Water, Grass or Fire for your first Pokemon character. It’s hours of fun playing the game and collecting the 8 badges after defeating the gym leaders. It’s travelling to the Metrocentre with your friends to buy trading cards and then swapping with other friends in the school yard. I used to love it. It’s even how I got into graphics and drawing – I would spend hours drawing characters from games like Pokemon and Grand Theft Auto which started my love for illustration and design.
Gotta catch ‘em all bruh!
I missed the boat with Pokemon. My love of Nintendo was in the early 90’s and limited to the Mario trilogy, Mega Man 2 and Super Mario Kart. So I’ve not installed Pokemon and have no plans to, no matter how hard Rich and Carl try! It is really interesting to see the effect its had on the media: from the hilariously spammy article titles to the articles suggesting users download APKs (the android equivalent of an executable file) from random websites and install, it’s like the ILOVEYOU virus never existed.
Catching fictional animals out in public may not be your cup of tea, but Pokemon Go is definitely on to something and it feels like it is the start of social and augmented reality gaming breaking through the mainstream. At the very least, it gets people out and walking and gives us something to bond and collectively smile over. If you do have children and are worried about them using the app, talk to them about safety or go out with them and make it a family activity. While most of us doubt that we’ll still be playing Pokemon Go in twenty years from now (or even a couple years), the general consensus is that we look forward to seeing where this technology takes us in the future.