On April 1, 2014 Google released their version of an April Fools Day prank which integrated Pokémon into their Google Maps service. Little did they know, that only two years later, Nintendo would release an official version of their little prank. Pokémon Go.
As a huge fan of Pokémon, and someone who has played every game for every generation since the initial launch in the 1990’s, I was very skeptical of Pokémon Go when I first heard about it. For those of you who don’t know what Pokémon Go is; the game spawns Pokémon in the real world for players to capture. In order to find new Pokémon you have to actually get out of your house and explore your surroundings.
The mission is simple; Gotta catch em all. However, catching them all is easier said than done for a variety of reasons. Rarity, player level and real-world location all factor in to which Pokémon you’re likely to find. Its much more likely that you run into a low level Weedle than a high level Lapras. Keep in mind the closer you are to a body of water the more likely you are to find water Pokémon.
It’s important to note that these Pokémon don’t just interact with you on their own. You have to tap them on your screen, and just because they’re nearby doesn’t mean you’re close enough to catch them. The bottom right-hand corner of the screen has a tracker that tells you which Pokémon are “near” you. They are marked with footstep icons ranging from zero to three with three being the farthest away. You can take your Pokémon hunting a step further than that if you’d like. On your map you will occasionally notice a pile of rustling leaves. This simply means that there is a Pokémon there. It doesn’t indicate which one, but using the step counter and common knowledge you can narrow down the possibilities.
Where you live can also be a huge factor in how you experience the game. This is because you have a finite amount of Pokéballs at your disposal. In order to get more you must go to different Pokéstops to collect them. Pokéstops are typically just well known spots near you. For example, the Wisconsin State Capitol building is surrounded by six of them. Once you visit a Pokéstop to claim the items there is a five-minute refresh time before you can use it again.
The location of Pokéstops can be a huge plus, or a huge downside depending on where you live. If you live in a city you should never run out of Pokéballs because Pokéstops are everywhere. but if you live in the countryside their scarcity might cause you to be more inclined to purchase them with real money through the otherwise free-to-play app. It also seems as though you’re more likely to run into more Pokémon in more populated areas. But none of this is what makes the game so fascinating.
What makes it fascinating, is that everyone is playing it. Nintendo is worth $9 billion more this week than it was last week (before the game came out). People who have never played Pokémon in their entire lives are obsessed. There are stories of people walking off bridges, breaking into private property and standing in the middle of streets all over the world in the name of Pokémon. Perhaps Nintendo was trying to bring Darwinism to a whole new level but who knows. No matter where you go it’s likely that you’ll see a group of people mindlessly marching about staring down at their phones. Although the game does advise players to be aware of their surroundings.
Now as amazing as it is that it seems like everyone is playing, what’s more amazing is the positive impact it is having on some peoples lives. Those suffering with mental health issues can sometimes find it difficult to even go outside, yet this game gives them reason to. For those suffering with depression, having a reason to go on a long walk can really be beneficial. There have been so many added health benefits that Nintendo couldn’t have possibly anticipated.
Even with all of these benefits the game still has a lot to work on. I could talk forever about the complexity of Pokémon and I’ll try my best to explain the faults without doing that.
The main problem with Pokémon Go is simply the servers. There are so many people playing that the game crashes a lot. Often times, when battling a gym, it just doesn’t work. There have been countless times where I would have to battle the same gym over and over to try to take over, but the game would crash at then end and it would wind up being a waste of time. This happens while trying to catch Pokémon too. These issues will surely get better as the hype dies down and the casual fans stop playing. But Nintendo has big plans for this game, and if they want to maintain its hype, they need to improve the servers.
Amongst other issues I have are that battling is too easy and requires no skill or knowledge of Pokémon. Each Pokémon is given a CP (Combat Power) digit that represents their overall strength. High CP Pokémon are more likely to win a battle. The battling system requires you to simply tap a screen to attack until you or your opponent runs out of health. This is a personal problem I have because I am a huge fan of the hand-held games. Pokémon Go is designed in a way that makes it easy for everyone to play which is perfectly fine; I just prefer some complexity.
I also question the longevity of the game. Eventually people are going to be sick of walking around, or they’ll have caught everything. However, only the first 151 of 721 total Pokémon are currently in the game. It is expected that there will be updates to add the rest of the Pokémon. But, once Summer is over and winter approaches, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll find people trekking through blizzards to catch an illusive Pikachu.
All in all, Pokémon Go could be the future of mobile-gaming. As a huge videogame fan, I’ve never seen a game take over like this one has. It’s so easy to play that there’s no reason not to at least try it. And although it may not be for everyone, it seems like everyone’s playing it.