I would like to preface this post by saying I am in no way, shape or form, a ‘gamer’. I know little to nothing about computer games, I’ve never owned a console, and the last games I played with any conviction were Golden Eye, Mario Party and Micro Machines…circa Nintendo 64. So if you are expecting an insightful, technically detailed review of Pokemon Go, I suggest you stop reading now.
The truth is, until three days ago at approximately 9:30am, when my husband uttered the words, ‘So I was thinking about trying Pokemon Go’, I knew nothing about Pokemon’s past iterations, nor had any interest in the game. So it might come as a surprise to discover that I ended up spending the better part of the weekend (and 20km worth of shoe tread) on Nintendo’s new offering…
In case you are one of the five people who don’t know what Pokemon Go is, it’s an augmented reality game app for your phone, which forces you to get off the couch and go searching for Pokemon to catch. These critters can be found all over the place, from busy city streets to parks…with fun facts about the local sites thrown in as an added bonus. Think Google Maps meets Lonely Planet Guide meets hide and seek and you’ll start to get a picture of what I’m talking about.
I’m not going to explain the game any further that that…partly because I don’t understand the intricacies of ‘evolving’ the Pokemon and have no interest in taking over ‘gyms’. But mostly because I am more intrigued by the way this game has captured the attention of even the least likely of audiences *coughme* and the impact the game has in a greater social context.
Over the weekend we had balmy 22ish degree heat throughout the UK, which apparently meant every 25-34 year old who’d just installed the app was out to catch Pokemon. This in turn caused the servers to crash/meltdown/whatever-the-technical-term-is, which in my head looks like this scene from Silicon Valley. Players were left watching the little Pokeball spinning on their smartphone screen with despair, while they lamented the wasted kilometres on eggs that wouldn’t hatch.
This server meltdown clearly shows that Pokemon Go has immense popularity, but why? For me, it has engaged my inner child (see, I’m not a grown up yet) and incites a sense of fun and imagination. There is a playground-like camaraderie with fellow Go-ers on the street…a knowing head nod, smile or the occasional ‘did you catch it?’ exchanged with strangers as you seek out Pokemon on your travels. And who wouldn’t have a giggle at the sight of a suited posse of businessmen out chasing fictional characters in their lunch hour?
Car crashes and increased potential for pedestrian-vs-anything-incidents aside, I think Pokemon Go is worth the hype (when we aren’t overloading the servers with our enthusiastic play). It’s encouraging people to exercise and explore, it’s a conversation starter crossing all age groups and cultures…and it is straight up fun. In a time when the news is heavy with stories of racism, hatred and political madness…this game is an unexpected way to bring a smile (and a Jigglypuff) to your day. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Pokemon to catch…