Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Pokemon Go - Going, Going, Gone?

You've heard of it, right?!

Even if you haven't played it, chances are you know someone who has.

It's a modern day addiction or affliction or exercise craze.

It's a cross-generational phenomenon.

It's an app that encourages strategic thinking and exercise while pitting old against young, new against pro, and it's hard to avoid. Or maybe that's just the people playing it who have a tendency to walk with their head down perfecting a zombie-look.

After various conversations on the subject and a long train journey, I thought I would put together this post.

I was slow on the Pokemon Go uptake, my phone memory didn't have enough space to download the app and so I watched from the sidelines, joining Laura on her hunt. The concept is simple. The app puts Pokemon (creatures of all sorts) into our world, but they are only visible when using the app. That's why people are wandering the streets searching for nothing that the naked eye can see. Spot a Pokemon and the game begins, you have to catch them by throwing Pokeballs at them and once caught they join your Pokedex - a list of every type of creature caught. Each Pokemon has a combat power score, the higher the score the better they will be in a battle. Oh and there are Pokestops all over (landmarks) where you can get Pokeballs and other game assets. The battles take place at PokeGyms - where players gather to 'take control of the Gym'.

It's not necessarily a game where the aim is to race to the finish and catch them all, it's a game where strategy and game play is more important - if you catch them all, that's just icing on the cake.

The other clever inclusion is that you can collect eggs at Pokestops and to hatch those eggs you have to walk - there is a speed cap so you can't go over 15 miles an hour, otherwise the tracking stops - so you actually have to move in order to reveal what's in your eggs.

The game makers, Niantic, are clever. This game is revolutionary. Bringing together real world activities with a game scenario is powerful. In the last few weeks, our local Pokestop - a nearby church - has drawn a crowd of young boys, parents and kids, couples - a whole range of people. I'm not sure what the church thought was going on the first few days but now they seem willing to accept that there are Pokemon players wandering around almost permanently.
The Pokemon Zombie effect

In Birmingham city centre we witnessed community at its best. Around the cathedral were tons of people of all ages putting 'Lures' on; Lure's make Pokestops more appealing to Pokemon and therefore more likely to appear. It means that players were essentially helping out other players. We were there for almost an hour. Furthermore, there were actually people wandering around asking if we wanted any tips, sharing advice on where to find rarer Pokemon. These days, not many things would bring strangers together like that!

In fact on Facebook and other social media people are organising Pokemon Go meet ups!
Sadly we couldn't make it to this one in Sydney!
For me personally, I am loving the fact that Laura is eager to head out on walks. It's normally me suggesting dog walks, but since this game we have had plenty of extra walks - Bisbee is both overjoyed and confused simultaneously.

Then there is the addictive side. I actively avoid anything that I could potentially become addicted to. The gene is in my family and so I am wary of computer games of any sort - Minions can easily suck hours of my life when I switch on for 'just one game'. I once got fully obsessed with 'It boxes' in pubs, and though I'm sure in the end I got out more money than I put in, it led to a lot of time and pound coins wasted. There have been signs this game could go the same way. On at least 2 occasions we have gone for a drive to see what Pokemon are available and we extended our journey back from my parents just to hit up more Pokestops.

Although, again, Niantic are clever - you have a bag to keep you balls and assets in and that bag has a limited capacity (unless you pay for more) so there is no point just driving around.

The Pokemon game does a similar job to pedometers by encouraging walking - with the need to walk 2km, 5km or 10km to hatch an egg, combined with the sentimentality of a childhood game - I mean I was too old for Pokemon but Laura and her brother played the Gameboy games and collected the cards growing up and the challenge of collecting all the Pokemon is nostalgic. It taps into our inner child and that is really powerful.

The last time I was in London I went on my own Pokemon mission and came home proudly displaying a new array of Pokemon- the other benefit to this was I discovered a bunch of new areas and streets - and even a new Pret to visit!

It's not just London though, as the Pokestops are landmarks they tend to be things you would walk by but never really see. In Birmingham we have seen sculptures and plaques - including one noting Shakespeare's Birmingham residence - that we never knew were there.

We haven't dared brave the public parks at night, though there are so many lures on, it may sound dramatic but who knows what kind of people are hanging out in dark, open spaces. We did hear a story that a group of men were using the game to lure players into a park just to rob them! I mean wandering around with your phone in plain sight is not exactly avoiding a robbery.

We're fighting the Pigeotto's in our house!
We are almost a month since the game's launch and the interest level is still high but I can't wait to look back on this in a few months and see if it has staying power or if we'll be on to the next new thing. I predict this is the future of games - entering characters into the real world and making video games something you no longer do only in your room! Next, how about a Harry Potter version?? We'd be all over that!

Are you playing?

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