The Pokemon GO craze is sweeping across the world, and not because of its great gameplay. To be honest, Pokemon GO is a really terrible game. But Niantic, the developer behind this game, has done one crucial thing right – they have augmented reality.
You don’t play Pokemon GO strapped to your couch or fixed to your computer monitor, you play it by going outside and exploring the world. But be ready for some unexpected consequences of your AR adventures.
So how do you actually play this game?
Simple. You create your avatar, set some minor things up and start roaming the world. Pokemon GO uses a real world map of your surroundings to guide you through the animated in-app world to look for PokeStops.
PokeStops are tied to your town’s notable landmarks or public places like parks, monuments, etc. At a PokeStop you need to spin the spinner on your screen to get PokeBalls, which are used for trapping the Pokemon.
You find Pokemon by exploring the map until your phone sends you a push notification, via geofencing technology, and a Pokemon jumps out in front of you. Now all you need to do is throw a PokeBall using your finger on the screen and hit the Pokemon on the head, trapping the poor virtual thingy inside it.
Pokémon are your slaves, or gladiators to be more precise, you use to fight other players at Gyms in some sort of Pokemon cock-fight.
Not much of a game is it?
It all feels like somewhat disappointing if you know and love Pokemon. There are no exciting battles between your and wild Pokemon to tire them out and capture them. You just hit them with a ball. You do not train your Pokemon.
You level up a single Character Power by finding new or duplicate Pokemon. You do not have turn-based battles with other players, you just tap the screen as fast as you can in one big screen smudge-fest. I get that they were aiming for simplification, but it all feels a bit oversimplified.
Thankfully, the other segment of the game – augmented reality is spot on. Playing the game by essentially just walking is a great thing. People are finally getting some exercise while playing a game. Something that hasn’t happened since Dance Dance Revolution or Niantic’s previous game – Ingress.
The point is that you leave your house and start exploring the world around you. You’d be surprised how little you know about your own town, how much more to see, and how this game has “made” you see it.
But one thing about Pokemon GO is that sometimes it takes you to places you maybe don’t want to see. Ever. I assume this kid didn’t want to see the dead body floating in the river. Some PokeStops and Gyms were also at graveyards, strip clubs, sex shops, Scientology and Westboro Baptist Churches, just to name a few.
That’s all adding to the craze however, as people are relentlessly roaming around hoping to find something strange or funny to post on social media, which is attracting more and more players and creating popularity we haven’t seen since the good ol’ days of Flappy Bird (remember that?).
I believe Pokemon GO will grow and evolve over time, as Niantic is surely accumulating significant resources at the peak of their game’s increasing popularity. We can hope they can straighten the bits and pieces of it and make it something people will keep returning to. As for now, it is a fun game to try, but how tight will you be immersed in it probably depends on how big of a Pokemon fan you are.