Welcome to the world of Pokémon Go(-GO)
The game has well and truly changed...
Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?
Andy: I didn’t want to do this, I didn’t think I would do this, I can’t believe it happened. I had one momentary lapse in judgement. One itty-bitty life-changing lapse and my world has been turned upside down. Literally my life has changed before my very eyes and I am powerless to stop it. No manner of intervention, therapy, rehab or being locked away on desolate island devoid of life, nothing could change my life the way this has. No I just have to go, and go…. and go some more. The thing is, even when I go I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m adrift in an endless sea searching for the meaning of life.
OK, that may be a little dramatic, but the lapse in judgement I had was downloading Pokémon Go. I’m not knocking Pokémon at all, but as long as I have been a gamer I can honestly say I have never played a Pokémon game before. I know that’s hard to believe, but there were still a few of us out there and last week that number shrunk dramatically. I saw a gentle wave on comments on my social network feeds, then that wave got bigger, and bigger and turned into a tsunami. So I figured I’d try it out so I could laugh at everyone playing it. And now I can’t put it down.
The thing is, I have next to no idea what I’m doing. I have no idea who Pidgey, Caterpie, Rattata, Weedle or Drowzee are. I don’t have a clue how to do the whole gym thing, or who I should transfer to the Professor or what the heck all this candy is for. But, I can’t stop playing it. I have driven around town to get more Pokéballs. I have fist-pumped when I got a couple 10km eggs, and I have groaned when I saw my 722 Rattata (slight exaggeration there – call it artistic license). But I can’t stop playing it. No matter what I do I think about Pokémon. Where are more Pokéspots, how do I find better monsters and who should I level up or evolve. It’s madness. I am a small drop of a huge wave and I can’t get off. So to start things off this week… what the hell happened to me?
Nicholas: Now I’m no doctor, but it appears Andy that you’ve come down with a very serious case of Pokérus. While the condition is not permanent, you will notice enhanced abilities and a strong addiction to Pokémon until its effects wear off. In-short, welcome to 1995.
I remember when I saw the first advert for Pokémon Go earlier this year and the premise had a lot of promise. Bringing the world of Pokémon into real-life, combining the tried and true formula of catching, training and trading and having it work on the world-stage. Sure, it’s not like Pokémon hasn’t allowed for global interaction in the past, but this just seemed different. This is different.
What I also remember from the trailer was masses of people converging in central places around the world. That to me seemed a little farfetch’d, but it really added to the whole excitement of it all. I guess what I didn’t expect was for that to actually happen! It’s only been out for a little over a week and already the world (and keep in mind, Europe only had it made available to them a few days ago) has gone absolutely insane! There are stories after stories of hordes of people gathering together to catch new Pokémon, and there have been extremely popular events that are being organised with attendances reaching 1000+!
I don’t want to give my thoughts on it just yet, but I’d like to switch back to you. As a non-Pokémon fan you’re absolutely hooked, so I’d like to know why. What is the allure to Pokémon Go? What makes this different from anything you’ve played before?
Andy: I honestly was expecting not to like it. In my head I had already developed an opinion on Pokémon. I only installed it so I could try it and laugh at those who kept playing it. Then I caught my first Pokémon – it was Pikachu. Seriously, I didn’t look anything up before I started, so I loaded the game and these three Pokémon popped up. I didn’t like the look of them so I kept going. Those same three kept popping up, then suddenly there was a 4th and it was Pikachu and it was literally the only Pokémon who’s name I knew so I caught him. Then caught another Pokémon, and another and another. All this was happening as I was walking, which is just crazy.
For me the allure of it was two-fold. First I had never played a Pokémon game before so all of the characters are new to me. I have no idea who evolves into what, or who the “good” ones are. Although I now have an idea that Rattata, Pidgey and Weedle are not as rare as I thought they were the first time I caught them. The second reason I’m hooked is a very basic thing about video games and myself. I am a hoarder. If it’s available in a game I have to have it. Even if I don’t need it I have to have it. Pokémon’s tag line is “Gotta catch them all.” Well that’s about as close to my motto as you can get. I love to explore and find things, the Pokémon Go lets me do that in real life. Seriously, insert the mind-blown gif here because that’s me.
Since I didn’t care about Pokémon before this came out I never saw any advertisements for it, or if I did I scrolled right past them so I went into this with zero expectations. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a game before. Yes I knew Pokémon was popular, but the amount of people I see playing it is crazy. Nothing like the big cities and the Pokéwalks that have been organized or anything, but none-the-less it’s crazy to see. I can’t recall a time where I have seen this many people in my towns local parks, walking past places and the like. It’s nuts. But, it’s also amazing. For years and years we have heard about the “bad” of video games. People sitting at home and do nothing. They don’t interact with anyone, don’t go out in public, the list goes on and on. Pokémon Go turns that upside down and encourages people to do the opposite.
I’m a pretty active person I’d like to think, but I’d be lying if I said Pokémon Go didn’t have me out and about more than usual. Looking around my town and reading stories on the internet I’d say that’s true for a good amount of others as well. I’ve met some people I would probably have never met, I’ve seen some cool things in my town that I didn’t know where here – and I’ve lived here my whole life. The whole experience for me has just been an all-around blast. I know my dogs are confused as to why we keep going for more than two walks a day.
But, enough from the guy who has never touched a Pokémon game before. I know you are a big fan of Pokémon, so what do you think about the Pokémon aspect of the game? Does it fit well with the Pokémon canon, or does it do something (or things) that don’t sit right with the Pokémon games that you know and love?
Nicholas: On face-value, Pokémon Go seems like the ultimate Pokémon game. You literally explore your city/neighbourhood looking for wild Pokémon, then when one appears you try to catch it. Sometimes you catch it, sometimes you don’t. Once you do, you then battle it with other trainers and work on making them stronger. You’re goal is to collect them all, all while interacting with other like-minded gamers. It’s Pokémon in real-life.
Thing is, I don’t like it.
Well, let me rephrase, I’m just not into it. But it’s not the game, it’s me, and for a number of reasons too. First things first, it’s a mobile game. Regardless the game, whether it’s something as simple as Angry Birds or even a racing title, mobile games are just something I can’t get behind. Of course that then leads onto my next reason – it drains my battery. Requiring the app to be open the entire time, with GPS and mobile data enabled, it’s impossible to get a full day’s worth out of your phone unless you’re charging it at your desk between breaks or carrying a portable charger with you, and that seems ridiculous.
That said, there’s one major reason why I can’t get into Pokémon Go, and it’s one that I dare say is going to divide most of our readers – I feel stupid for playing it. I know we’re all gamers, and I love gaming, but I don’t like being an overt gamer, because for as acceptable as gaming is these days it just seems a little childish to walk around with my phone out looking for cartoon monsters. I love Pokémon, I drink out of a Pokéball mug at work, but there’s just something about playing Pokémon Go in public that seems immature – despite the fact there are thousands of people everywhere doing just that.
Am I being crazy though? Even as someone who’s loving the game, do you see where I’m coming from? On another note, we’re seeing such a spike in the attention this game is receiving, do you believe it’s sustainable? Is Pokémon Go going to last, or like most mobile games do you think it will fizzle out?
Andy: I have to be honest, I am absolutely shocked that you’re not a fan of this game. One of the things I like about it is you can play when you want, where you want. So, if I’m at the store getting groceries why not load it up as I walk around the store and catch a couple while I’m there? I don’t have to have it on all the time, so draining the battery isn’t really an issue unless you make it an issue. I’m not buying the too childish to walk around with your phone out excuse either, hell a lot of people were doing that anyway before this game even came out. Checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, text messages, shuffling music and whatever else people keep on their phones. Those all drain the battery too.
I really do like the fact that for at least a couple weeks here we are having (mostly) positive stories about gaming in the news – and major news outlets – for once. Yes, there are a few stories out there of people being jerks, water bombing players or a few nefarious stories as well but, by and large the vast majority of stories I have seen are positive. Some are dumbfounded by the “craze” that is sweeping the world but I’m OK with that. If Pokémon Go gets people talking about gaming in a positive way then I think that’s damn cool. Heck, I went out to supper with my parents a couple days ago, we talked about Pokémon and on the way home my dad kept saying “Is there one around here I need to stop for?” Let that sink in for a minute I talked to my dad about video games. That hasn’t happened for 25 plus years!
As for how long it will last, I think it depends. Sure, there will be a peak and then a gradual decline then it will level off. There’s no way the level of people playing right now will be the same in say three months but I think it will do just fine. With a caveat of course. Where I live in Southern Minnesota in the US, there is no way people will be playing as much in five months. Not because of the game but because of the weather. In December/January our temperatures get down into the -20F (-28C) range. No way people will be out strolling around in that.
The other thing I like about Pokémon GO is that while it’s a free to play game the monetization of micro-transactions aren’t intrusive. They are there if you want to but not required by any means. I will never spend a dime on it, but I don’t think my experience will be lesser because of it. The real win for Pokémon though is now I am actively considering looking into playing Pokémon on their flagship DS and trying it out there. Sneaky bastards, they are like Heisenberg. Lure me in with the free stuff then make me pay to keep the rush going!
I understand you’re not a fan of Pokémon Go, doesn’t mean I agree with you, but I get it. Even though you don’t like it, surely you can still appreciate the significance of what’s going on right now, and positive impact it’s having on a lot of people can’t you? I hate the Kinect and the games it has that make you move around, I feel stupid doing that in my living room. But, walking around looking for an elusive Pokémon, yep I’m all for that! Even you can’t say the exercise people are getting is a negative can you?
Nicholas: No, I certainly think it’s hard to disregard the positive impact that the game is having on the community, and on that basis it’s awesome. There’s nothing wrong that more people are being active (it mightn’t be intensive cardio, but getting out is better than not moving at all) and there’s nothing wrong with people being social either. It’s incredible that it took something like Pokémon GO for that to happen, but like I said earlier, I’m not surprised that it has. It’s got the elements of a winning formula and Niantic have hit the absolute jackpot with it.
You’ve mentioned some of the negative news that the game has attracted, and I’d like to delve into that further if I may. Last week we talked about the story where a woman found a dead body while she was searching for Pokéstops, and there have been multiple instances where people have been mugged or even assaulted while looking for Pokémon. Going further, there have even been a few stories of people not paying attention, falling/tripping and passing away from injuries. These are horrible to hear of course, and it probably doesn’t surprise you that some traditional media outlets (paper and television) that have tried to link these tragedies with the game itself, rather than people just being irresponsible and negligent.
The question I’d like to ask you is, with so many positives coming out of this game, why do you think some outlets want to focus on the negatives, and furthermore, why do they pin it on the game itself? There’s no denying that Pokémon Go has highlighted how popular gaming is, but why does it continue to be misrepresented at times by sources outside of the industry?
Andy: Most of it I think is the natural slant that many media outlets prefer now-a-days. That being the negative, over-dramatic headlines, the world is ending type of stuff. Heaven forbid that the news actually report fun light-hearted topics. I think they have a quota of one positive story to every nine negative ones. Sadly that’s just the nature of media right now. It’s actually why I don’t watch a lot of news anymore on TV. It’s like they have clickbait news stories for people who are already watching, plus they rile up the mob for whatever issue they are looking to take on that week.
I want to take a step away from Pokémon Go here for a minute. There have been several discussions we have had talking about gaming, trends, where we see things go and what have you. One of the questions you usually stump me with is “Where do we go from here?” I think I finally have an answer for you and wanted to run it past you to see if you think it’s viable.
Think about playing a post-apocalyptic type game, maybe even a zombie game if you want, you have the traditional gameplay of surviving, building a base, fending off attacks, doing quests etc. The twist here is while you can scavenge for minimal supplies during missions and in the in-game world the bulk of your supplies come from a second screen experience. I’m not talking about a mini game or something like that. I’m talking about a companion app where you have to go around your town/city and find what you need. If you need meds you have to go to a pharmacy to try and get supplies, need building supplies better find a hardware store, need food – where’s a grocery store. You’re never guaranteed certain supplies at these locations and once you loot them you have to wait a set amount of time before they restock. So you go to a location and find a box, or boxes, you then go back home sync the companion app to the game and open the boxes you brought back to find out what you got.
That’s equal parts Pokémon Go and equal parts Fallout. I think that could be an absolutely amazing experience and would take gaming to the next level in my opinion. I would love to play something like that. As we reach the end of this week’s discussion what are your thoughts on that type of gameplay mechanic? Is that a logical step for developers to look at considering how popular Pokémon Go is and that it proves people are willing to go out and about when it’s done right? Or, do you think that’s too far outside the box and not worth the effort? Also, can you think of other games that may benefit from a Pokémon Go type of release? Or, is it just that Pokémon Go caught lightning in a bottle and it’s doubtful that it will ever be replicated no matter how many times other developers try? Because everyone knows other developers are going to try this for sure.
Nicholas: Well, the reason why Pokémon Go works and does so so successfully, is because of two reasons I believe. The first, it works with the concept of Pokémon – you look for them in the wild, they differ from region to region and you level them up, battle and evolve them. The second, it’s simple – very simple. The games on the handheld consoles have become more complex each generation, but Niantic have been smart to strip it all back to its basics with Pokémon Go, so not only does it suit the platform – mobile gaming, but it’s accessible to everyone – gamers and non-gamers, fans and non-fans. That’s why it’s so brilliant and why it’s swept the world. Well, that and the fact it’s Pokémon.
With regards to your Fallout-esque idea, I think it’s clever, but I wonder whether it would be truly successful if you had to go outside to unlock most of your content. What I mean is, the beauty of Pokémon Go is that it all happens in the application on your phone. If you had to combine a full console title with a companion app, and people had to leave their house (and in-turn, the game) to unlock the necessities, I think that would discourage most players and make them think it’s a game where half the content is missing. The concept certainly works, but I think it runs into issues when you pull gamers away from one system and make them work on another. Then it becomes potentially inconvenient that you need to run to the store just so you can progress further.
As far as alternate ideas where this could work, I’m thinking perhaps a puzzle or myster/thriller type game. One where you would use similar augmented reality technology to highlight clues in the world or even secrets that you could use to further your investigation or solve a puzzle/riddle. I think that would have the potential to be really cool and clever, but once again, would it ever have the same pull as Pokémon? Realistically, no.
As we wrap up this week’s article I did want to touch on what I said earlier about the whole Pokémon Go phenomenon. I mentioned before that I felt immature playing the game in public and how that was one of the reasons I couldn’t get into it completely. Well, just this Monday past (and for our readers wondering, you and I write these over the space of a week) I was hanging out with a friend and we decided to visit a park and turn the app on. It wasn’t long until I was having a blast catching some Bulbasaur, Onix and even a Golbat. Hell, to take it further, we then did a few laps around the neighbourhood at 7 pm that same night and caught some more Pokémon and even hatched some eggs. Did I still feel childish? If I’m honest, yes, but when I was with my friend playing, and we were surrounded by others doing the same thing, it kind of felt cool at the same time. That in itself is pretty awesome I think. And with that, I think I’ll end it there.