On July 6, 2016, Pokémon Go was released here in the US and Australia. I heard about it last week when a co-worker brought his phone to my desk to ask if I’d seen the game yet. He immediately caught a Ratatat that was hiding on my desk. He was pretty excited about the app which no different than millions of other people who have already installed and played this augmented reality mobile video game.
Yesterday when I was on the phone with my dad, he asked the question “what is Pokémon Go?” I explained to him that it’s a game for your smartphone that uses your phone’s GPS and camera to let you see and then capture little cartoon creatures as you walk around your town. “So, this isn’t something that I’d want to do right?” he asked. I said, “No, dad, I don’t think so…”
You really know something has gone viral when even your 82-year-old non-techie dad knows what about it. So, has Pokémon Go changed mobile gaming forever? And is that a good thing?
What is it and how do you play?
Pokémon isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s been around for 20 years and started as a Nintendo Game Boy game back in 1996.
If you’ve not installed the new Pokémon Go app on your iOS or Android phone, it’s worth checking out just to say you’ve tried it. The mobile game is very easy to understand and play for kids and adults.
Basically, you just create your avatar which shows up on a live map that looks similar to Google Maps and shows your immediate surroundings. As you physically move around, so does your avatar and the map. Even if you are sitting at your desk and don’t walk around, you’ll find a few common Pokémon lurking nearby. When you see one, you tap on it and then the app will switch to the augmented reality view through your phone’s camera which will show the Pokémon on your desk, in your yard, etc. You can throw the red and white Poké ball at the Pokémon to capture it.
To find uncommon Pokémons, you’ll have to get up out of your chair and go walking…outside. That’s right, this game promotes exercise. As you search for Pokémons around your neighbourhood, you’ll also find PokéStops which are usually located at popular locations like monuments, memorials, and other places of interest. Visiting a PokéStop will let you learn a little about the location and will let you earn points and pick up loot like more Poké balls, potions, and other goodies.
After you have collected a bunch of Pokémons, you can train them and battle with other Pokémons.
The good and the bad
I think Pokémon Go is good for the mobile gaming scene because it’s the first game I’ve seen with augmented reality that has really caught on with gamers. I think this will become a new genre of gaming that will explode really quickly. Maybe even faster than VR gaming since a special headset isn’t needed to play the games.
Another benefit of Pokémon Go is that it encourages gamers to get outside and explore their town and other towns instead of sitting behind a computer all day. Walking while wandering around hunting for virtual creatures is great for your health, but gaming outdoors can also be risky. Some people have been so focused on their phone’s display while playing this game that they have walked out into traffic, tripped over objects on the ground, got sore feet and sunburn while walking in the sun all day, etc.
Other mobile games that will let you explore the outdoors
As I said before, this game is definitely worth checking out, but there are at least three other games that use your phone, GPS and the outdoors, but have more benefits than Pokémon Go: Geocaching, Munzee and Letterboxing.
You’ve no doubt heard of Geocaching. This scavenger hunt type game uses your phone’s GPS or standalone GPS unit to lead you to hidden caches that contain little toys and trinkets that you can trade. The game helps you build navigation and puzzle solving skills while getting you out in nature.
Munzee is similar to Geocaching because you use your phone and GPS, but instead of hunting physical caches, you hunt for stickers with QR codes that let you earn points.
Some consider Letterboxing which was started back in 1854, to be the father (mother?) of Geocaching. The object of this game is to find hidden boxes that have a logbook and a specially designed rubber stamp. The idea is that you use the stamp to stamp your personal notebook and you stamp the logbook with your own stamp. Letterboxing differs from Geocaching and Munzee because you use follow step-by-step clues to find the letterbox instead of using a GPS. Honestly, I’d never heard of Letterboxing until today, but now I want to go do it because it’s not as command as Geocaching and it uses stationary supplies! 🙂
What do you think about Pokémon Go?
Are you a player or do you think it’s silly? If you don’t play Pokémon Go, do you have a favorite game that uses your phone in the outdoors?