To write this blog I obviously had to spend a few hours actually using the app, named Pokémon Go – all in the name of research, of course… Ha! I was born in the early 90s, so spent much of my pocket money on Pokémon cards (much to my father’s disdain). As a 90s baby I also have a weakness for nostalgic blasts from the nineties/naughties past.
But, what really captures the millennial attention with this game is that it’s a good bit of tech. As kids that grew up very much in the new tech boom, this latest delve into augmented reality (AR) has peaked our interest. Whilst it’s been on the techy radar for years now it’s rarely been used outside of the advertising arena, with a small shout out to the AR geology app iGeology3D. So this is the first, real example of successful, big arena AR gaming.
Okay, it’s a little buggy (I played for hours upside down) and yes, perhaps the algorithm isn’t perfect, such as pokémon turning up in inappropriate places but for a free app, the first major one of its kind, it’s pretty good.
It has had a lot of backlash, mainly around the algorithm problems, however, I must question whether the app is entirely to blame. The game is pretty addictive but you know when not to enter somewhere. Equally, the NSPCC have hit back at the game, labelling it irresponsible, which I must agree with to an extent. It’s worth reminding children not to wander off without a responsible adult with them (who is not playing the game) and encourage them to stay in the open, near people, even if there is an Espeon just in those trees, and I think this is something the app fails to address. Something I think Nintendo, as a kid based company, have let themselves down on.
Despite criticisms, I think if the app is played responsibly, with full awareness of your surroundings (which is possible, the app even vibrates when you’re near a Pokémon, so you don’t actually need to stare down at it) then the game is a brilliant example of AR capabilities. It might not be perfect yet, but like many things just starting out – and considering Nintendo and Niantics’ massive underestimation of the game’s uptake – it’s proving to be a real up and comer. In fact, Nintendo shares have risen by almost 12,000 points since the release date (figures true as of 18.07.16).
Okay, you might feel a little weird wandering the streets looking for pokémon but actually, exploring Guildford Town Centre on a busy Friday afternoon, getting a few looks, a couple of sniggers, I found it a weirdly freeing activity. It was embarrassing and I did feel self-conscious… for all of 10 minutes until I found several people quite clearly doing the same thing, jumping for joy because they found a Kakuna (who would’ve thought, eh?) and actually being outside! It was rainy, cloudy and muggy, so for anyone, gamers specifically, to be outside, it’s a kind of big deal.
photo credit to knowyourmeme.com
In fact, one Radio One interviewee even stated after a few days of Pokémon Go he had walked 25k, ‘more exercise than [he’d] ever done in his life’. And that’s why I love this game. It gets people out, and more than that, it gets people meeting. I met a lovely group of teens, a, rather timid, group of adults and what’s more, we all bonded over something and for that brief moment you feel closer to strangers on the streets than ever before. After all, when else do we say hello and bond with someone we have never met before and will likely never meet again?
So I encourage everyone to give Pokémon Go a try, because as long as we all behave in a safe, responsible, and self-aware manner, then this could really highlight the way for Augmented Reality, and I for one welcome it with open arms.