Nobody anticipated that Pokémon GO would be the biggest mobile game in history. The game is so big in fact that the game’s servers have been reportedly crashing across both Europe and North America. So what’s the deal? What is Pokémon Go and why is the entire world going crazy over it? Why has the craze reached the highest echelons of society – with presidential nominees and world leaders commenting on it?
Regardless of your age, you probably have some familiarity with the Pokémon brand name. If you’re in your teens, twenties or thirties, you likely played the game as a kid or teenager. If you’re in your forties and above, your kids probably drove you insane in the late nineties, nagging you to buy decks of Poké cards.
If you were a lucky kid, you would have had a Game Boy which allowed you to play a black and white version of the game where you had to collect those mysterious creatures and test their might in battle.
Fast forward to today and we have resurgence in the Pokémon brand. Although the series has remained pretty consistent up until this point, Pokémon GO represents an explosion popularity which seems even bigger than the initial release.
It’s always difficult to dissect a phenomenon, but certainly the use of augmented reality, the abundance of smartphones and the viral nature of the connected world all played a significant role in the hype.
The game is truly reminiscent of the original game boy versions. You play as a Pokémon trainer where it is your job to collect different types of Pokémon, level them up, evolve them into better or different versions and battle other Pokémon trainers. The goal, as the “Gotta catch ’em all” catch line suggests, is to catch every type of Pokémon and presumably be the best trainer in the world.
The difference between the Game Boy version and Pokémon GO hack however, is the use of augmented reality and geo-location technologies on your smartphone. The game world is actually based on the real world, and all the Pokémon are scattered in different locations, depending on the type of Pokémon.
For instance, if you wanted to catch water based Pokémon then you would go near a river or lake in the real world. If you wanted to catch a grass type Pokémon, then you could visit your local park. It sounds bizarre, but the app uses your phone camera to project the Pokémon onto the real world, where you have the option to capture it.
At this point in time, you can’t see other people around you through the app, but it is easy to spot people playing the game. The fact that you have to physically move to different locations means you will certainly bump into other players – most likely at a gym or a Pokéstop.
Battling at a gym and capturing multiple Pokémon is essentially how you improve and evolve your deck. Pokéstop’s are also a significant location in the game. When you visit a Pokéstop, you get a chance to receive Poké balls (which you need to capture Pokémon) and other beneficial items which you may need later.
The game is still in its infancy, but it looks promising – having added almost $11 billion to Nintendo’s valuation at the time of writing this article. What’s most surprising is that it’s not only kids who are getting involved, but also adults who played the game in their childhood and want to relive the good times.
Both the social and physical aspect of the game offers a fresh new perspective into gaming and shows how a little mobile application can bring us that much closer together.