According to Wikipedia: “Pokémon Go (stylized Pokémon GO) is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game developed and published by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. It was initially released in selected countries in July 2016. In the game, players use a mobile device’s GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. The game supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items”. Within a month the game has attracted a staggering 50 million users worldwide and most readers will now be aware of those close to us hooked on the game, spending hours roaming the streets in order to capture Pokemons.
I understand there was a fore runner to the game a couple of years back based on similar ideas, but it never caught on to anywhere near the same extent as Pokemon Go, no doubt as a result of the Pokemon brand (many of us will recall the craze a few years back of kids collecting Pokemon cards). I am told on good authority that the game is technically flawed but also has enormous potential to develop. It has also huge commercial possibilities, for even though the game is free, as any smart game developer knows, by offering extra goodies that can be paid for, to enhance the gamer’s gaming experience, this can provide a lucrative revenue stream, which no doubt will be the case concerning Pokemon Go.
Having just become aware of the game, and given its newness there has been little time to come to a view, it did get me thinking about the gaming phenomena generally and Pokemon Go specifically. I recall in days gone by having arguments with my family for forbidding my child playing the card game – my concern being mainly links to the occult, but that aside how should we view this latest craze, and craze it is given the number of folk, usually quite young, who are now spending lots of hours wandering the streets and in particular public open spaces and land marks to find their Pokemons? I suspect there has been a long history of game crazes, which after a time give rise to a new one. I recall when I started a new job in 1983 in the computer realm, I came across an online Dungeon and Dragon’s type game. It was purely text base, requiring one to map out one’s own dungeon and on the way fight baddies, solve puzzles, gather treasure etc. before reaching one’s ultimate goal – and many spent many an hour, in our lunch breaks and before and after work, playing this game. I recall in recent years playing a game based on similar principles, but this time with lots of fancy graphics (but in my opinion not matching the earlier thrill I once had). I had become more recently aware of games like “Candy Crush” and of those who spend hours playing this, and in the grand scheme of things, Pokemon Go is merely a modern new development, using cleverly as it does the latest technology.
In my recent India journey, I recall reading in one of its papers an article citing the case of a young lad who had been devoted to his sport but then losing all interest because Pokemon Go had taken over as his main interest, and this understandably worried the parents. I read more recently of gangs targeting people playing the game in the open spaces in order to steal their smart phones. When I did a search of the Internet, my first hit was reading an article of one place in the USA where ex sex offenders were forbidden from playing the game because of concerns over child safeguarding. Clearly, also, anything that can get people addicted or has safety implications has to raise alarm bells. However, having spoken to my own local expert on the game (my 18 year old son), I am now of a view that playing the game can be a good thing if sensible precautions are taken and because one of its side effects is getting players to exercise and explore, there could even be positive benefits. Meanwhile and despite reservations, I watch developments with interest, realizing potential dangers around playing, especially if excessively, but that the game isn’t going to go away anytime soon.