Ok, let’s talk about Pokémon Go

I mentioned in my post from Friday that Pokémon Go was motivating me to do more walking.  It can be thought of as a fitness tracker with a game built in, but of course, it was created as a game.  Pokémon was a big thing in our house for years.  We had the cards.  We watched the TV show.  We played the games on GameBoys.  I posted these pictures to Facebook recently:

Thad with Pikachu cake.
Thad with Pikachu cake.
Pokeball cake

Geeky Boy was five.  We had years of Pokémon ahead of us.  So I was excited when Pokémon Go came out, a potentially solid reboot and modernization of the original games and shows.  And to some extent, it is that.  If you’ve never played, I’d recommend the trailer.  It’s a pretty good depiction of the game’s vision with some actual screen representations thrown in.  So it’s cool to have a representation of yourself walking around what is clearly the streets around you but it looks like a video game, and then, when you find a Pokémon, it’s surrounded by what’s clearly “the real world.”  Fun augmented reality stuff. Here are some Pokémon photos I took:

Goldeen swimming in my computer.
A bird in the hand . . .
The elusive Meowth

Fun, right?  And yes, you do look a little weird catching Pokémon in public, but no weirder than the person texting or responding to email.

It is fun . . . when it works.  And this has been the big issue for the makers of Pokémon Go.  They were flooded by users in the early days of release.  It appealed across many age groups.  In my own neighborhood, I’ve seen 13 year olds and 50 years olds and everything in between playing the game, often in groups.  The flood caused server crashes, followed quickly by frustration.  The flood may have passed, but there are still many, many issues.  I struggle to log in except under certain conditions.  Near as I can tell, I have to be in my house on wifi.  Once logged in, I can leave the house and walk around, but if I log out while away, I rarely can get logged in again.  Which meant, for example, when I went downtown this weekend, no Pokémon for me.

The Pokémon subreddit (yes, I read it, why?) was filled with rage over all the issues with logging in, getting kicked off the server, etc.  For those of us experienced online gamers, it’s called new release day.  But there were other issues with gameplay, like not tracking km accurately and the nearby Pokémon feature not really working.  And then, then, they shut down some third party sites that added a cool layer to the game.  You could look at your neighborhood, or the next neighborhood over, and see what Pokémon were hanging around.  And then you could try to run out and catch them.  They claimed it was cheating.  And that was just it for some people.  I mean your game is your community and your community is going to make stuff around the game.  It’s what gamers do.

So there are problems.  And I’m not even talking about all the scare stories out there.  I have no time for those.  People do stupid things.  It’s not about the game itself.  I think it still has promise if they can get the kinks worked out.  Augmented reality hasn’t been my thing per se, but connecting the virtual with the real in ways that make sense, even if it’s just to have fun, really takes us somewhere interesting, I think.  Pokémon Go isn’t the first game or application to do this, but it’s the first that captured not just the 13 year olds, but a large chunk of people who would never call themselves gamers nor who knew what augmented reality even was.  It’s a step toward mainstreaming some of this stuff.  And once that happens, things start to take off.