What is Pokémon Go and Will it Just Fade Away?
By Abigail DeHaas, Contributing Writer
It’s normal to go outside and see people everywhere on their phones. Twitter and Facebook are the usual suspects for this behavior. However, lately people are using a different kind of social app: Pokémon Go.
Pokémon, which originated as a handheld video game and continued as a card-trading game, has always pandered to the imagination. Today, it’s helping bring imagination to life with Pokémon Go.
Pokémon Go combines the best of the original game with modern technology and social media. Rather than keeping people’s eyes glued to their phones, it allows for interactions with others on an interpersonal level. Players use their mobile phones to explore their surroundings, catching “Pokémon” that appear on a virtual map. Once players reach a certain level, they can battle with other “Pokémon Trainers” using the Pokémon they have collected. Since its release, the game has become wildly successful, gaining approximately 9.55 million daily users within the first week (recode.net).
Why is this game so popular?
A reporter at TheStreet said, “This is a story about how traditional consumer bases are the reason behind marketing for something becoming a mass success. This isn’t a story about augmented reality catching on.” In other words, this is a success for Pokemon — not for video games in general. The content, not the vehicle, is what makes this game popular.
“Augmented Reality (AR)” refers to games that put the player into the real world, forcing them to move physically in order to play the game. Pokémon Go’s predecessor, Ingress (also made by Niantic), was another AR game, yet it had a much smaller player base. Ingress came out in 2012; if AR were the phenomenon here, Ingress would have been more successful from the start.
Instead, Pokémon Go uses the original game’s fan base and makes it accessible to those who otherwise wouldn’t be interested. It brings the game out of the shadows, and out of the individual level of a handheld GameBoy, and allows for social interaction in the real world.
Pokémon Go not only creates a new type of socialization, but also new types of capitalization. Some businesses are giving free WiFi to Pokémon Go players, and others offer food and drink rewards of varying sizes, depending on the player’s Pokémon Trainer level. These establishments purchase “lures” (a module that attracts Pokémon to their location for 30 minutes) to help bring people to their business. Individuals are taking advantage of the game, too: you can even request services from people advertising themselves online as “personal Pokémon Trainers” (not recommended).
Regarding the safety of the game, police have issued warnings for players to remember to look both ways before crossing the street. Despite a warning placed on the game’s loading page, some people are injuring themselves without paying attention. Within the first week of the game’s release, there were car accidents reported around the country due to players ignoring their surroundings. Two men accidentally walked off a cliff in California while playing the game; another popular story circulated of a player stumbling across a dead body.
Pokémon Go usage has surpassed Internet pornography and dating apps like Tinder, most likely because of the large number of children also using the game. Additionally, many “Pokestops” are inside churches, driving people to visit and collect “Pokeballs,” regardless of whether they attend church.
Unhappily, players also risk alienation through the game. One source said he was made fun of as a child for playing Pokémon, and that Pokémon Go only heightens the opportunity for bullies: “It saddens me that we live in a day where people are mocked and insulted for exercising, exploring, and making friends” (John Parkinson, MI). Even as adults, those perceived as “nerds” are still a target for bullying.
There are some people who believe this obsession won’t stick. One source, who started playing Pokémon Go with the beta version, said, “It’s been an interesting roller coaster of childhood glee, from nostalgia to being blown away by the success, and finally disappointed once the ‘honeymoon’ wears off. I realized it was a buggy mess with little to no depth” (Stephen Perteet, MI).
Will others come to this same conclusion? Maybe, but until then, it remains a popular way to get outside and interact with others, and a refreshing interpretation of an old classic.
People who played Pokémon as children are finding new joys in their favorite game. Pokémon Go is bringing people together, young and old, who have a playful spirit; it’s helping people rediscover childlike wonder.
Although the various incarnations of Pokémon often stress positive values such as fairness, honesty, mutual respect, sportsmanship, and even private property, it often involves some violence as Pokémon “trainers” use their Pokémon creatures and their special powers to battle one another until one creature knocks out the other creature. Also, some of the special powers of some Pokémon creatures are occult or “magical.” Finally, some Pokémon movies or television episodes are more occult than others. Because of these things, MOVIEGUIDE® advises some caution when it comes to all things Pokémon.
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