Pokémon GO – Ten Days Later
Ten days on from the launch of Pokémon Go the game has finally been officially released in the UK. However judging by the amount of gyms that have been claimed in my neighbourhood, it would seem that many people have already opted to download and install the client unofficially, like myself. Pokémon Go has gone beyond being just a popular mobile game and quickly morphed into a pop culture phenomenon. It’s everywhere at present and Nintendo are obviously enjoying the fruits of their labour. However it will be interesting to see in the weeks to come whether the level of enthusiasm the game currently enjoys can be sustained.
As for me, I’ve already dialled back by excitement for Pokémon Go. All the local Pokégyms are beyond my current level and none of my existing Pokémon are sufficiently robust enough to provide a significant challenge, so I’m mainly focused on collecting at present. Due to where I live, there are plenty of Pokéstops. It would appear that pubs, churches and parks all meet the games criteria to be a designated as such and there’s no shortage of these in South East London. Avery Hill Park next to the Halls of Residence for Greenwich University has over twelve Pokéstops and two gyms. The park itself can also offer a variety of Pokémon, which change according to the time of day.
The twenty minute walk that it takes to reach this particular open space, plus the time needed to walk round the entire park provides a great opportunity to hatch eggs. This is an additional facet of Pokémon Go that brings me pleasure, although it raised a curious look from Mrs Peril when I told her I was going out to incubate my eggs. It’s also the only aspect of the game that has so far made me contemplate spending money. I briefly thought it may be useful to purchase additional incubators but quickly shelved the idea. I already put enough money into several other games that I play and am still suspicious about the cost to fun ratio of mobile games. I also have a nagging doubt that I may get bored with Pokémon Go because I cannot invest the time that is needed to progress and succeed in the game.
One final part of Pokémon Go culture that is worth mentioning is the comradery. I was at the Crayford branch of Sainsbury’s yesterday and there was several families shopping while playing the game. A few friendly words were exchanged once everyone determined we were all doing the same thing, which makes for a pleasant change. I also noticed more people politely nodding and smiling when out and about. I guess the way we carry our phones and the manic grin is a bit of a giveaway that we’re all after the same rare Pokémon. Personally I find these minor but positive changes in social interaction a pleasant counterbalance to all the negative stories that have been associated with the game. It would seem that there are still many players who seem oblivious to their own and others safety.
Pokémon Go uses a popular franchise and combines it with the human compulsion to collect, as well as our love of gamifying the arbitrary and the mundane. I’m still not sure if the game is a stroke of genius or a case of the emperor’s new clothes. Certainly it has been nice to be part of a burgeoning craze while it actually happens, rather than being on the outside looking in. I also think that Augmented Reality may be the sleeper game format that gazumps the crown that Virtual Reality is striving for. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime perhaps we should start placing bets on other popular franchises from the nineties that may be revived. My money is on Johnny Bravo.