The interesting phenomenon known as Pokemon Go

“A teenager stumbled upon a dead body in a river while playing Pokemon Go”, “A drive crashed his car into a tree while playing Pokemon Go”, “Two Pokemon Go players were shot at by a homeowner in Florida after being mistaken for burglars”, “21 year old was out catching Pokemon around 1 am was stabbed”, “Four teenagers got lost in a cave while hunting for Pokemon”, and many many more negative headlines have been showing up lately due to a new MMORPG called Pokemon Go. Everyone is so focused on the negative effects that they are forgetting the positive effects this MMORPG is having on our younger generations, that is until recently. The latest headline that I am aware of is “Pokemon Go fan because first Brit to catch ’em all and have lost four inches to his waist line. Finally the positive benefits of Pokemon Go are slowly being released in the media and I can’t wait to see the medical reports for this.

At its core, Pokemon Go, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past month or so, is a mobile Application one can load on their mobile Smart phones. It allows the merging of reality with virtual reality, using real life locations as certain points within the game itself. It enhances the original idea of Pokemon and brings the game to life for all players.

The original Pokemon is a virtualization of an old insect hunting game participated by many Asian cultures. Kids from the pre-electronic entertainment era would go out into the wild, find insects, capture them, and bring them home as pets where it will eventually die. This was later identified as cruelty to insects and was slowly depreciated in many Asian cultures. A secondary reason to the demise of insect hunting is the introduction of the electronic gaming systems, it is usually more fun to see Sonic dash across the screen and stopping Dr. Eggman’s plans or Mario eating Mushrooms and saving princess Peach as oppose to walking around chasing after butterflies which will eventually die. However, with the introduction of the mobile gaming system Game boy, Nintendo decided to merge the two together and created the original Pokemon game. Pokemon or Pocket Monsters as known in Asia, are simply virtual insects to the player’s character but they are not as needy as the Tamagotchis were and there are multiple method to play the game beyond just catching all one hundred and fifty-one type of the original Pokemons. However, due to the technical limitations, the best Nintendo can do at the time was to put allow players to interact with their real life friends providing their friends also have the game and a cable to connect the two gameboys together. Sadly, these entertainment devices created two generations of people who preferred to stay inside their homes, the massive adoption of the internet back in the mid nineties only made this worst.

Fast forward to today’s society, where we are all connected with the internet via a mobile computing device in our pockets. Driving and texting is now more of a danger as oppose to driving and drinking. Younger generations, me included, are so spoiled by their phones that some people can’t imagine life without the internet. Meanwhile, due to the increase in processing power and advance graphics ability on devices such as the iPhone or the Galaxies, traditional game consoles are now facing a new threat, the mobile devices in peoples’ pockets. Therefore I completely agree with Nintendo’s new direction of moving towards a gaming software business while keeping their gaming hardware as a side. This is a very well thought out  answer to this disruptive innovation from Nintendo’s point of view. It would have the potential to allow Nintendo to do what the Sega Dreamcast attempted but was not successful at, blurring the lines between people’s lives and the gaming lives. Imagine one day where Link’s arrow is shot from your smart phone while you are playing the game on the next generation Nintendo game console or you have to hunt for clues with an augmented reality system via your phone to solve a particular problem inside the game, that’d be amazing! However, before Nintendo can get there, they must test the waters to see before devoting further investments into development of software on multiple platform, after all, Nintendo’s platform is an extreme case of a closed system. In one point of view, it is even worst than the iPhone’s development platform. So it only make sense to take the perfect scenario game from their arsenal of games and release it as a mobile app game, therefore we have Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is a very good example of how much data is actually collected by big companies like Google or Apple while we are using their applications. In fact, I went to a seminar at the OCCCIO conference and was amazed at the control an administrator can have via a simple app installed on an Android phone. Basically it is the perfect stalker’s tool, it not only reports where you are, who your friends are, who you have been talking to, full access to your camera’s storage, it can also remotely shutdown and remove applications the admin doesn’t want you to use. So in essence, all of these information are shared with the Pokemon Go servers and yes it can be very scary. However, one must ask, does the benefits out weights the negative. My answer, yes! One hundred times yes!

Here is a picture I took at 10 pm at a park in Pickering.

Yes! Those are young people traveling in groups to catch Pokemon at a park! Fresh air! Wait a second, I am there also! You see the benefits I am trying to point out here? For as long as I can remember, young people haven’t really been playing on the streets since I was a kid. The amount of young people out experiencing the world for what it really is has increase significantly since Pokemon Go is released in Canada.

Because of Pokemon Go, I was able to see some amazing sights where I have been ignoring for the last twenty years of my life.

I didn’t even noticed how full the moon was, until I started looking out to the lake wondering if I can catch some water Pokemon. A few Pokemon trainers also joined me when we noticed this scene. We assumed that the moon light was reflecting off of the surface of the water and hopefully it isn’t some kind of algae invading the waters of Lake Ontario.

Aside from the location section where Pokemons are spawned, one of the game’s mechanics is the incubation of Pokemon eggs. These eggs are incubated in your personal incubator, however, to make the incubator work, you must walk. Eggs are divided into three classes so far, two kilometer, five kilometer, and ten kilometer. This means as your walk with the game open, you are also hatching Pokemons. This is the piece that got me hooked onto the game. I’ve been finding an excuse to increase my exercises levels during the week and this game gave me an excuse to go for a walk during lunch. To make things even more interesting, the game redirects the focus of the player towards it. This for me was the portion which allowed me to walk around quite extensively. In the past, when I am walking around, my focus would be on my feet, the heat from the sun, or finding the shortest distance between my starting location and my destination. With the Pokemon Go App running, my focus was on how to catch more Pokemon and collect Pokeballs. This resulted in my ability to walk to my body’s limitation. If I had this back in Vegas, I might be able to find something else aside from eating at the Bouchon.

We may have to wait a bit more to see the positive benefits of Pokemon Training with the Pokemon Go app, however, I am hopeful that it is producing more positive as oppose to negatives. Best of all, so far the game is only ten percent of where the developers wants it to be. I wonder what other fun thing or health related things can be introduced into this game in the next iteration of it.

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