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.
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.