Pondering Pokemon | PostIndependent.com

Pondering Pokemon

Caputring a Pokemon outside the Post Independent office.
Staff Photo |

I’m not a trendy person.

You won’t find a video of me doing the ice bucket challenge or the Harlem shake. Even as child, I never owned a tamagotchi or a furbie. On the few occasions I did manage to jump on the bandwagon, I remember enjoying the camaraderie, but usually I was either far too early or too late. I think it’s hard for me to take something seriously until it’s proven the test of time, and peer pressure just makes me dig in my heels.

As arts and entertainment editor, however, I feel obliged to stay halfway hip to the current trends. Thus, when Pokemon Go started taking over my newsfeeds, I decided to give it a try as a public service.

Unfortunately, Pokemon is another one of those things that took place in the background of my childhood. I never owned a GameBoy or any sort of trading cards, and my third grade social standing probably suffered because of it. Consequently, a lot of the elements of the game are a mystery to me even though I’m probably part of the target demographic for the long running franchise. It doesn’t help that the game itself doesn’t have much in the way of a tutorial.

For the uninitiated, here are the basics I’ve learned through research and experience.

Pokemon Go is a free “augmented reality” game for smartphones. What that basically means is that success in the game is tied to real life location based on GPS, and some in-game interactions are even plastered over live images from your phone’s camera.

It’s kind of a cool concept, though not an entirely new one.

In fact, many of the core elements were lifted more or less wholesale from the company’s older and arguably more grown-up augmented reality game, Ingress. That’s why a lot of “pokestops” where players can nab extra items are a little out of date. The closest stop to my office, for instance, represents the eagle sculpture that was vandalized and later removed. A “gym” where people can battle Pokemon in Carbondale bears a photo of a pink rabbit in a spot that has since hosted three more rounds of sculpture.

Still, the local Pokemon Go community owes a debt to both local public arts organizations and Ingress players for the plethora of such resources in our comparatively small community.

Anyway, prospective Pokemon trainers are rewarded for visiting local landmarks as well as for walking in general, and are also able to actively track the strangely named creatures around town.

This has generated some concern as some players disregard the launch screen warning people to be aware of their surroundings and end up wandering around with their eyes glued to their phone.

You’ve probably seen some stories on people hurt or arrested for trespassing while playing Pokemon Go. I have trouble blaming the game itself for this, as there’s plenty of leeway in the location to provide safe, public locations from whence to game.

I suppose the novelty generates enthusiasm, as does the competitive element. You see, there are three teams: Mystic (blue), Valor (red) and Instinct (yellow). Once you choose a side, one of your top objectives is to capture or hold gyms.

It’s pretty obvious logging in which force is dominant in your neighborhood. Carbondale is generally a sea of red, pushed back by blue, the national favorite. Yellow is the apparent underdog, so of course that’s the one I chose. I’m not really in a position to help the cause much, though, as I apparently lack either the dedication or the skill to raise competitive Pokemon.

In the end I suspect that, while a dedicated cohort will likely stick with it, the mass interest in this game is a fad. Casual players like myself and latecomers are likely to be discouraged by being vastly outclassed. The setting may also not appeal to some potential players, while dedicated Pokemon fans may also be frustrated by the app’s dissimilarity to the older games they love.

There’s also the matter of frequent glitches and server outages in the early release coupled with heavy battery and data use to keep the app running.

Augmented reality, however, strikes me as something with a lot of potential. I think there’s a market for a game that really draws on local features. Imagine an app that encouraged us to interact instead of giving us an excuse not to. If anyone knows of a local Pokemon event or group, I’ll be glad to get the word out. Otherwise, maybe I’ll try Ingress.

Will Grandbois suspects Harry Potter will be the next franchise to give augmented reality a try. He can be reached at 384-9105 or will@postindependent.com.

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