I’m sure everyone has now heard about the mobile game phenomenon that is Pokemon Go. I’m sure many of you have heard much more about it than you’d ever want to and feel you would be quite happy to never hear anything more about it again. Unfortunately, for you then, this is a further discussion of Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Go is a crazy supermassive social phenomenon. It has been downloaded 7.5 million times in a week, in that week it has surpassed Tinder and is on track to quickly surpass Twitter if the current download trend is maintained.
Do we like it?
Well, at Inklish we tend to be drawn (excuse the pun) towards games featuring animated characters but so far none of us in the office have been brave enough to download and play it. However, there is a lot to like.
It is popular, and people are having fun playing it, which in itself should be enough. There has been some suggestion that it encourages young people to ‘get outside and play’, that it encourages group interaction. And there is evidence (certainly not specifically related to Pokemon Go) that computer/mobile mediated (through games, social media etc.) interaction helps people who are shy or suffer from some forms of social anxiety to interact with others. Technology can provide safe spaces for people to be social who otherwise wouldn’t get involved. I think it is way too early to ascribe these things to Pokemon Go but we should be open to them.
What are the negatives?
There may be a certain nuisance factor. Having people walking around the city mindlessly staring at their phones while… actually no difference to current situation there. But there have been reports of Pokemon characters materialising at schools, private residences and even a Holocaust museum, none of which is really okay. I’m sure there will be issues they have to iron out over the coming months.
But what about the game itself?
Well, we haven’t actually played it but I haven’t read a positive review yet. The game play is limited, there’s not much more to do other than collect Pokemon, and the battles are pretty basic. But these are reviews from gamers who are not really the audience. I think Pokemon Go is more of a social phenomenon than a game at this stage.
For me, the most exciting thing about Pokemon Go is the new type of game and gaming it represents. This is the first mainstream iteration of an ‘augmented reality’ mobile app game. We don’t know where this could end up, what new games could be developed and whether it has other more practical applications - like as a training tool etc. Nobody knew what early social media sites like Friendster and Myspace would lead to or even what early mobile phones would turn into. It’s going to be fun seeing the future iterations of these kind of games or alternative applications of the technology. Then again it could be the modern equivalent of mini-disk players and soon be consigned to the technological dustbin of history. We’ll just have to wait and see.