“Oh my God, you too?”
“Are you seriously playing that… that game?”
There are many polarizing things in this world: climate change, police racism, rape culture, and whether you should vaccinate your kids. And now, Pokemon GO.
What is Pokemon GO?
You can’t possibly have missed it, but just in case you’ve managed to evade the craze, all you have to do is visit a park. Any park, with maybe some a monument or a statue of some local hero. You’ll notice people standing or walking around, looking intently at their phones.
They are playing an augmented reality (AR) game called Pokemon GO. It’s the newest version of Nintendo’s classic game, where you as the Pokemon trainer roam the continent catching “Pocket Monsters” or Pokemon and train them up to battle others.
Pokemon GO takes the classic game to a whole new level by using Google Maps technology to place Pokemon in the real world.
Why people love it
For those who loved the Nintendo games and all its incarnations (the first games had 151 Pokemon, there are now over 700 with each new version adding more) Pokemon GO is an extremely successful extension. In the original GameBoy and Nintendo DS games, you played a character who went around catching these Pokemon. With GO, you’re the trainer! You can catch a Zubat in your living room, visit a beach and encounter Poliwag, or walk a hiking trail and find Caterpie.
Graphics and gameplay
There are those who have only heard of Pokemon thanks to Pikachu. They never really got into the games. But now they’re trying it out and they like it. The art and animation is fun. And just like other popular games, there’s a hook that keeps you coming back. For example, in Candy Crush, you need to beat “just one more level.” In Pokemon GO, people are urged to try and “catch them all”–collect all 151 types. Some of them are very rare and some can only be found by “evolving” them–catching multiples of a more common Pokemon and trading them in.
Also, there aren’t really many apps in the market that use AR. Niantic, the company that makes GO, already had great success with a previous AR game called Ingress. However, from what I’ve read, Ingress is much more involved and strategic where GO is pretty lighthearted and much more accessible.
Exercise and exploration
I’ve so far only brushed lightly on this, but it’s actually pretty huge: Pokemon GO requires you to be outside. You can catch Pokemon from inside your house, assuming they actually spawn there. But you won’t catch very many. More importantly, to catch Pokemon, you need Pokeballs. And unless you want to shell out real world dollars, you can only get Pokeballs at Pokestops.
Basically, Niantic used both existing Ingress programming and user beta contributions to find monuments, historical markers, art installations, and major city landmarks. These are then designated as Pokestops (or Pokemon gyms, we’ll go there later). You have to be within a certain radius to access a Pokestop and interact with it to get Pokeballs and other items you can use in your quest.
Occasionally Pokestops will also drop eggs. Pokemon will hatch out of eggs–but you need to walk a certain distance first (2 km, 5 km, 10 km). The further the distance, the rarer the Pokemon.
There’s a huge, excited community around GO that’s pretty welcoming. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve overheard people looking for a specific Pokemon, and have a passing stranger tell them where to go (since the same Pokemon will spawn at the same spot for everyone).
At level 5, you join a team. There are three, distinguished by color: Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue), and Valor (red). Your team is relevant in terms of gyms. Only one team can have control of a gym at any given time, and you can level up your Pokemon by training them at a gym you control. You can also station one of your Pokemon at a friendly gym, which makes it harder for other teams to wrest control away from you. So, it helps to have a group of friends go with you to the gym, steal it from the other team, and then have each person station a Pokemon there.
TLDR: if you want to battle at gyms, you need friends who are on your team to help you take control and keep it.
Why people hate it
It’s too trendy.
Don’t laugh, this is a thing. I occasionally succumb to this as well. Everyone is doing it, you keep hearing about it, and you feel like it’s being shoved in your face. It’s all anyone can talk about and you’re sick of it. So you don’t want anything to do with it.
Overexposure to anything is never a good thing.
People playing it are being dumb.
Everyone has their faces in their phones while walking. So they’re only half paying attention and are walking too slowly, or nearly run into you, or randomly stop to catch a Pokemon and block the path.
It’s being used to commit crime.
In GO, you can put a “lure” at a Pokestop to attract Pokemon there for 30 minutes. Everyone can see the lure, so they congregate in that area.
Some enterprising robbers have used this to literally lure people to a deserted area and then rob them.
There are security concerns.
Since the game uses Google Maps and GPS, you may be providing Niantic data of your location at all times. You’re also giving the app permission to access information like your contacts list and email address, specially if you sign in with your Google account.
There was also a bug for iOS users where the app required “full permissions.”
What I think
Like I said–we all just need to chill.
Full disclosure: I play the game and I enjoy it. As of this writing, I’m at Level 18… that’s pretty respectable for a game that’s been out barely 2 weeks.
No, I didn’t pay any money. I did take a couple of lunches during the week to walk at a nearby marina. Strolled there and around the neighborhood for a couple hours after work. Spent my time in between beers at BeerFest meandering through the Seattle Center grounds and hitting up the PokeStops while working off the calories I ate and drank. Took a few 5-minute “Pokestrolls” around the office with fellow trainer coworkers (something you’re supposed to do every hour if you work at a computer).
There are people who enjoy trail running, or competing in triathlons, or sweating it out in a krav maga gym. Good for you guys. I am not a fan of exercise. I run occasionally, because it’s physical activity, and you have to do something to stay healthy. I hike if there’s something cool to see. But in general, if I had a choice, I would stay inside and read a book or play board games rather than work out. So the fact that I’ve walked 14,000 steps on the days I play GO, and don’t even mind–that amazes me.
Like I said, this isn’t a video game or Netflix binge watch where you can hang out on the couch all evening. I’m trying to get better at photography, and being out and about has allowed me to discover new places in my area and try my hand at taking photos like these:
Went out to the marina for lunch. Started out cloudy but blue skies managed to make an appearance! For Pokemon trainers, there are a few PokeStops here and even a gym, as well as Dratini and Poliwhirl. 😉 #urbanexploration #reflection #TravelLocal #PokemonGo #gottacatchemall #pokestop #SamsungGalaxyS7 #smartphonephotography #amateurphotography #my_365 #my_365_pretty
Nothing against video games or Netflix binge watching, I do those too occasionally, but being out in the warmth and sun with some like-minded people can be nice too.
I don’t like people, in general. I really don’t. I think individuals can be wonderful and amazing, but collectively, the human race is horrible. It seems bent on its own extinction and that of its world.
The sense of community around GO is really cool though. People of all ages are playing this game, and everyone I’ve interacted with has been helpful and nice. There are reports of GO helping people with depression and social anxiety. Or kids with autism.
As for the reasons people hate it–nothing I can say about overexposure, except maybe don’t let it bother you so much? Remember how everyone was into Candy Crush? I never played it, but I sure as hell knew about it. And now it’s long gone from the spotlight. If you don’t feel like trying GO, rest assured, this too shall pass.
Something else to think about–I personally feel like hardcore sports fans act kinda crazy. “We weren’t paying attention to our defense in the first half” as though you were personally on the field? Being awful to people who support the opposing team? Spending hundreds of dollars of team logo gear? Talking constantly about scores and stats, sometimes even to people who don’t really care? The hype around SuperBowl?
Any of that seem familiar?
Of course, you guys do have reason to be annoyed by everyone walking all zombie-like. The news about the guy who caused a major pileup was a hoax, but other accidents have happened. Unfortunately, people are dumb. It’s like people taking selfies in dangerous locations, or texting while walking or driving, or being snap-happy while traveling (which possibly isn’t that bad) except on an exponential level. However, as news reports increase about unsafe events occurring because people are distracted while playing the game, and as interest wanes when the fever dies down, I think it will be just like how it was with texting. Just ride it out, and don’t be afraid to call people out if they’re truly crossing a line.
Security concerns abound with every app, and like this article details, it’s a good thing we’re suddenly paying attention, even though GO’s weren’t really as bad as everyone made it sound. Oh, and while we’re at it: criminals are everywhere. Like I said, people can be sucky, as sucky as using a fun game to target innocent players. But that’s just like robbers using any other social media. Shitty people do shitty things. But they can also be smart and adapt to technology, we just have to outsmart them.
So for those of you who are loving Pokemon GO, enjoy it! Build communities, be nice to strangers, don’t let anyone spoil your fun, and don’t take the game too seriously. Be aware of other people around you and don’t give your fellow players a bad name. Be safe. Don’t be dumb.
For those of you who are hating it… you’re totally allowed to not like things. It is all good. But let it go! There are plenty of things in the world to hate. Try not to be mean to people who enjoy different things than you, try not to be superior “because they’re only out to play a game, not enjoy the real world.” Don’t bait or troll someone just because “people who like Pokemon GO get butthurt so easily.” Don’t be an asshole.
It’s a trend; it will pass. Some people will get bored of it and some won’t. Some will move on to the next new thing. Some other catastrophe will wipe this off the headlines. Just go with it.