A New Form of Crack

On July 6th, a company by the name of Niantic, in a partnership with Nintendo and GAMEFREAK released a free to download mobile application that in just over two weeks is changing the world. The craze is global, so you know that I am undoubtedly talking about Pokémon GO.

For the first few days that the game was online, players weren't doing much of anything except looking at this screen though.

In the week following however, Niantic started getting their shit together and the server issues dropped of immensely. Once people didn't get kicked off every 15 minutes or so, they never left. Pokémon GO has surpassed Tinder in number of downloads, and people are logging more time playing than using Twitter and even Facebook.
People used to talk about a future in which everyone spent every waking moment with their faces down in their phones. Well, the future is now.

In case that doesn't look like a particularly large group, let me try again.

Now...it's not hard to find someone with their heads buried in their phones'. There have already been a few incidents involving people playing the game while they were driving, or playing and walking out unaware of traffic amidst them.
There will always be people that ignore both the games large and colorful warnings, and what should be a screaming sense of self-preservation...but common sense isn't quite so common any more these days.

What's really cool though is what this game is forcing people to do, whether they are aware of it or not. 
The game's core mechanic of catching these Pokémon revolves around your phone's internal GPS signal changing to move your in game avatar around. In other words...you move in the real world, your character moves in the virtual world. These Pokémon can't all be found in one general area, so you've got to get out and search. I mean, sometimes some cool stuff might pop up around where you live...

...but if you live in the Burbs like I do, these are few and far between. A quick look at what other people are reporting in my neighborhood (on another app) shows a little potential...

...but a lot of that is false. The game forces you to get out and explore to be successful. And not just drive somewhere and plant your ass on a bench or something...but actually walk around to trigger the monsters to pop out.
Getting active and getting exercise is the way to succeed. A lot of games have tried to use their appeal to get people off the couch and moving around, but not in numbers like what this game has. Shit...PornHubs traffic has taken a hit. Do you know what kind of events affect traffic to PornHub? The Super Bowl, the World Cup, the Olympics...and now a free to download phone application.
That also speaks to the audience that Pokémon GO has, because...I know we live in a messed up world (Donald Trump is the Republican candidate for the Presidency for Christ sake), but I would like to think that children have other things that they are ignoring now other than PornHub. I can be cynical, but I'm really hoping that that particular dip in traffic came from a slightly older demographic...more like myself. And I know it's true. 

I've gone out...gotten off the couch and tried to go find the best spots, and found others like myself...near 30 and still feel nostalgic of when we first got the original Pokémon Red and Blue back in 1998.
For whatever reason we have to play this game...we are legion, for we are many.

So, despite its truly ridiculous popularity, Pokémon GO is a largely incomplete app. For one, it is built on the bones of another Niantic game, Ingress. Ingress is also an augmented reality type massively multiplayer mobile application, but it has a much more science fiction/secret agent skew to it. The "Pokéstops" and "Gyms" directly tie back to where the "Portals" are in Ingress, and areas of greater Pokémon density tie back to Ingress' areas of high "Exotic Matter" concentration.
There are still a lot of things that Niantic wants to do with Pokémon GO that wasn't already setup and based in something functioning in Ingress, so they rolled Pokémon GO out without it. Things that are staples of the Pokémon brand, like trading and 1-on-1 battles, things that were promised when ads started popping up for the game a year or so ago, are things that we're just going to have to wait for. For right now, all we've got are catching 'em all and quasi battles.

I'd give them flack for rolling out an incomplete game, but I can't really throw stones when I've been playing daily since the Day 1 launch.
I do have a question though, for both Ingress and Pokémon GO...how did they determine the landmarks and whatever else that they were going to use for Portals/Pokéstops/Gyms? Some I understand...churches and places of public interest...sure. But, okay...I was driving back from my parents house the other day taking a longer route home and occasionally stopping at places that looked like they might be more ideal for getting out and doing a little hunting. I saw something strange though...as I was passing by the Moore funeral home and cemetery, where my Grandaddy currently resides in the Mausoleum, over a dozen stops out there...and even a gym(Yes, I already said it, we shouldn't be doing this while we are driving, but I'm scanning the area while at a stop sign or a light. Still not great, but at least I'm not doing it weaving in and out of traffic). A target rich environment at a graveyard? I kind of had to go check it out. So I went out there, made a quick stop by my Grandaddy's spot to chat for a bit, tell him what I was doing, and started making the round.

I'm standing right there next to my Grandaddy's spot, and look at all of those Stops! I know that we have ghost type Pokémon...and finding those in a graveyard would just make too much sense, but I'm seeing more stuff here than I did out at the Parks Mall in Arlington. It's kind of ridiculous.
I'd have thought that graveyards would completely creep me out, but I think I'm going back once it gets a bit late tonight. Don't think I can count on taking out that gym though.

I like what they've done with the little combat that is in this game. It's a mobile application, so they know it can't be as complicated as it is in the Gameboy/DS versions of the game. So they've brought each beast down to 2 attacks; a standard attack and a charged attack. There's also a dodge mechanic, and that's all there is to know about combat. Type advantage can get you pretty far in a battle, but if your opponent is over the top stronger than you...it won't be enough, and that's as it should be.
Gyms can be all over the place in terms of difficulty. If one gym has had its' team training at it for a while, it can have up to 9 trainers to get through before you even touch the actual leader. A gym in a public place is probably going to have all 3 teams going after it, and thusly it will probably be at a low level with only a few trainers inside. Take this gym at River Legacy Park for example that I took down the other day...

...there were only a few trainers inside when I got there, so I had no trouble taking them down and placing Team Mystic(Blue Team) back in control.

That control may have lasted only 5 minutes, but whatevs.

It's a simple game. Put on your most comfortable and supportive pair of shoes, flick some balls at some cute little monsters, prod your way through some gym battles, and have some fun out there.
Pro tip: Bring a bottle of water. In this Texas heat, I'm sweating like a whore in church out there. Keep hydrated folks.

Give it a try if you haven't yet. It's free(yea, I know...but the data!!! I know). Have some fun...I know I am.

My mom wonders if this is supposed to come with the meal.

My mom wonders if this is supposed to come with the meal.

There is an intruder in the house! Get it!

There is an intruder in the house! Get it!

This hospital is filthy!

This hospital is filthy!

This is the only time I haven't freaked out when a bee has flown in my car. (I am stopped at a very not busy stop sign by the way!)

This is the only time I haven't freaked out when a bee has flown in my car. (I am stopped at a very not busy stop sign by the way!)

Accidentally deleted this gem the other night. But with as many Eevees as I find in my area, I've already got a replacement.

Accidentally deleted this gem the other night. But with as many Eevees as I find in my area, I've already got a replacement.

My current top dog.

My current top dog.

And a gym leader...or was, I held this spot for like a full day though.

And a gym leader...or was, I held this spot for like a full day though.

And the team.

And the team.

It's a phenomenon, and if you're not playing, it won't be long until you're in the minority. But whatever...I know it won't be everybody's cup of tea. Just try not to hate on all of us out here having our fun...and we'll try to not run you over while we're trying to catch a Charizard in the car.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

Fantasy and other Genres

I blamed the collective schedule of the group for the down of the podcast...or at least the downfall of it's regularity. That puts equal blame firmly back on my own shoulders though, as well. Where did the time go? What is it about this whole being a grown up thing that automatically means your free time is cut in half? And, can I say, I'm not entirely convinced I'm cut out for that particular job. A lot of days I find myself wanting to turn in my keys, go back to my parents house, and just play games all day.

I find myself spending a lot of time fantasizing about what I would do if I had more time. Back asswards, right? But yea, all the games I would play...all the movies I would see...all the books and scripts I would read...all the scientific research I would publish...all the lands I would conquer. My own mind can be a hell of a drug. Where was I going with this? Oh yea, a smooth transition!

It's that time of year again where E3 comes around and causes us all to fantasize about what games we want for Christmas, Festivus, Carnival, Tuesday...whatever. I've tried to do E3 on here before, but I was so long at the tooth that I might as well have been out there summarizing the whole thing. By the way, if anyone can actually hook me up with that deal, I can do things...normal people have shame.

This time, let's just stick with a few high points this time.

There was a lot that I was expecting to come up this year that evidently mum was the word for. Mainly...I was hoping to hear some kind of update on the Final Fantasy VII remake, and there wasn't even a whisper. So for what actually did show up, is it any surprise that the first thing I'm going to bring up is a Pokemon game? I'll be 70 and I'm still going to be talking about how Squirtle was the best starter.

Pokemon Sun and Moon was probably the best thing I saw this year. They've made a lot of improvements over the last couple of entries, and with this being a completely new generation we will have a ton of new Pokemon to find. Add in a new multiplayer free-for-all battle system, and this will be sure to suck up a few hours of my time.

Oddly enough, the next coolest I saw was also from the Nintendo event...the only other thing...The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

This is going to come as spectacularly unbelievable to some, but I've actually never played a Zelda game. My only real link to the Zelda franchise (link, get it? this fucking guy) is Super Smash Bros. Even I have to admit though that this game looks very cool.

Nintendo is a hard sell for me though...for the WiiU at least. The only game I really play on mine is Super Smash Bros., and I honestly can't remember the last time I played it. So, despite my interest, I may end up passing on Zelda...again.

The only other thing that really caught my fancy from the big E3 conferences was kind of out of left field for me: Ghost Recon Wildlands.

I don't think I've ever played a Ghost Recon game before. Usually I get my FPS fix with more futuristic titles like Halo and Destiny...but this game looks really good. The thing that strikes me most here is the freedom the game gives you to complete your objectives in any way possible. Stealth, high-tech, full-on force; if you can think of another way to accomplish your goal, it looks like the game will let you.

And that's it. 6 big conferences and I only pulled 3 games. It seemed like everybody was making a big push for virtual reality this year, and while a lot of the games being made for it look pretty neat...I'm just not feeling it yet.

Okay, I lied...one more thing. This past year has been a sad time with Hideo Kojima being let go from Konami, and his legacy essentially being stripped away from him. Well, the internet exploded when, during the Sony press conference, Hideo Kojima walked out on stage with a new game that he's about to begin development on. And not just that, a new game with Norman Reedus as the player character, not unlike Kojima's last iteration of Silent Hill that got the boot earlier this year. The game is called "Death Stranding", and though no real production has started on the game yet, it feels like Kojima is giving Konami a well deserved slap in the face...as if to say, "You will not silence me!"

Speaking of Norman Reedus, it's come to my attention that Marvel has reacquired a lot more of their properties that they sold off the film and TV rights to. I'm not sure just how much Marvel has reacquired in the past few months or so, but what I am sure of is the rights to Blade and Ghost Rider.
So, why do I lead off this thought process with Norman Reedus? Well in a recent interview with Uproxx, Reedus was asked about "The Walking Dead", his new show "Ride", and what he thought about playing a different motorcycle riding badass, Ghost Rider. Reedus definitely sounded like he would be on board with playing the spirit of vengeance in a potential reboot. I don't know how you feel about the Nick Cage portrayal of Johnny Blaze, but if you think it wasn't that bad...you're wrong. It was garbage. A Norman Reedus Johnny Blaze...that could be a true badass. Let's make this happen Marvel.

Hopefully we can look forward to that. Pretty please.

I'm also looking forward to hopefully not dying this next weekend. My buddy is having his Dadchelor party...I think that's what you kids are calling it nowadays. We used to just call it a Diaper Party...bring diapers and beer, and a good time will be had. One of my friends is making jello shots, and I'm already feeling the pain. Ugh.

Everyone is having babies...

Until next time guys.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.