Twenty years ago children around the world were sold the idea that they could spend their lives travelling the world and collecting Pokémon. No job needed, no responsibility just travel and the endless pursuit of Poké friends, anyone who has ever had to adult knows that this would be the perfect life. Never in our wildest daydreams did we imagine that this would be possible, the sheer thought defied our perception of reality. Enter 2016 and the Pokéball launch of Pokémon GO, the reason why random groups of people seem to be pointing their phones at you on footpaths and random gatherings of adults in your local parks during the middle of the night. Every single one of the people, and they are legion, are trying to catch them all, they are training to be the very best.
Catching them all starts with designing a trainer, a small number of clothing options can be customised, along with the colour of hair, eyes and skin. This customisation is great because it allows you to create an avatar for yourself, but it would be great to see further updates to this feature, because as of now players can’t change their clothes or features beyond their first compilation. Having the ability to customise height and weight to a certain extent would be nice, though this has never been an option in a previous title. However Pokémon X & Y allows players to purchase clothes that can be changed, and also lets players change their eye colour, hair colour and hair styles through hairdressers.
Player customisation is simplistic, choose your gender, the colour of your features and attempt to coordinate a unique outfit from other players with access to about the same 15 clothing items. Naming yourself is also important and this is one of the biggest diversions from the current generation Pokémon DS games. Over the last several generations players have been unable to use rude or defamatory language when naming things, either themselves or their creatures, PoGo allows players to do this, resulting in names like “SlutKing” and “irapekids”. Initially it was my thought that this is ok because mostly adults would have the technology and interest to play, but thanks to iPhones and successful advertisement campaigns, even 6 year old have what’s necessary to play the game. Families are using the app on iPads and their smart phones through local parks and walkways, helping the kids catch invisible monsters whiles being outside and active.
As of yet only monsters from the first generation are available to be caught, evolved or hatched, which gives 151 unique creatures to obtain, this is more than enough to keep even the most dedicated of us entertained, for now. Like most games that centre on collections there are common creatures, less common and the ever desirable rare Pokémon – I’m looking at you Mewtwo. Catching critters is the most amusing part of the process, to do this players must walk around as vast an area as possible, tapping on monsters that appear on the map. When critters are successfully engaged Pokéballs and Razz Berry’s can be thrown to catch them, however both parties can choose to run away. Unless players are willing to spend lots of their own money to buy incense and other necessary items it is impossible to play the game by sitting on the couch. Even so walking around looking for Pokéstops is important because they provide extra player experience and facilitate lure modules which attract random Pokémon for 30 minutes. Lure modules work for everyone in the area which makes them a sort of meeting spot for trainers in the local area.
Businesses are starting to realise that they can join in the POGO fun and cash in on a great marketing strategy by utilising the presence of Pokéstops and Gyms in the nearby location. Competitions to take photos of Pokémon within their store/eatery have been happening as well as funny social media posts acknowledging the humorous posts of players from within their stores. What’s even better is that anyone can request a Pokéstop in any place, so the potential for meeting places are endless and have the ability to grow. For the most part the mobile app has become an international phenomenon connecting people of all ages, ethnicities and walks of life.
Negativity is often the media focus of large trends like this one, and it is easy to get focused on the people who are emotionally or physically damaged in connection to them. On the loading screen of the game, before you can access anything, the game tells players to “be aware of your surroundings”. Humans are responsible for their own behaviour, the problems that have happened surrounding Pokémon GO is reflective of those individuals and not the game, rather it has many positive attributes to contribute to its player base.
To say that there aren’t flaws would be wrong, an early, nearly fatal flaw was the footstep function that shows Pokémon in the local area. In the first version the footsteps represented the distance between player and monster, this led to inevitable human stupidity. This feature has since been disabled and Pokémon players are no longer walking into oncoming traffic. Running on a GPS map also has its problems, such as correctly pinpointing player location, and the incredible burden that the battery is forced to take. It is not uncommon to see people with charging cables snaking out of pockets or bags, keeping their battery healthy,
Niantic have created something truly unique, for years the entire gaming culture have been told to get off the couch, stop being lazy slobs and to socialise. Pokémon Go has achieved this well and truly, if you’re unsure about it take a look at your local parks and walkways, there are groups of people globally attempting to “catch ‘em all”. These groups of people interact and help each other find new Pokémon, if you live near a beach it’s not uncommon to see hordes of trainers sprinting over the sand in pursuit of a Dratini or Magikarp. Within a few short weeks this app has whipped the world into a Poke frenzy, stories of people making new friends, losing weight, I could keep praising it but that would be overkill. Nothing is without its flaws but overall Niantic have created a game that has captivated the attention of people spanning all walks of life. If there is one mobile app that is worth downloading it is Pokémon Go.
About: Sarah Rigg
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