Pokémon Go takes the world by storm

Pokemon Go mobile game

The 90s seem to be making a comeback with choker necklaces, mom jeans, yin yang symbols and overalls cropping up all over the place. And now a new Pokémon game has gone viral. What’s next, Tamagotchi? Oh wait, there’s already an app for that.

Pokémon Go is free-to-play augmented reality* mobile game from Niantic, the same people who created Ingress. You can now capture, battle, train and trade virtual Pokémon who appear in real world locations. Players physically travel to places within their area to find Pokémon and choose them with a virtual Poké Ball. Imagine running into Pikachu on your way to the grocery store!

The game was already conceived back in 2013 by the iconic Satoru Iwata of Nintendo and Tsunekazu Ishihara of The Pokémon Company as part of an April Fool’s Day collaboration with Google called Pokémon Challenge. The short-lived game wanted to people to hone their skills as a Pokémon Master by using Google Maps. Pokémon characters were placed in random places all over the world and people had to find them. Hints were placed all over social media and people went absolutely bananas for it. When it disappeared (since it was an April Fool’s Day “prank”) people were calling for it to become an actual game.

One of these days players will also be able to buy a wearable device called Pokémon Go Plus as a separate purchase. The device will use Bluetooth technology to notify users when a Pokémon is nearby through an LED display and vibration. This device is apparently to ensure that people are more aware of their surroundings while playing the game instead of looking down at their phones to find their next Pokémon.

And you’d be surprised how necessary a more heads-up approach like this device is to the Pokémon Go game. The craze has only just taken off (it was released in early July 2016) but players have already run into real world snags. Players have fallen off their bicycles while staring at their screens, stumbled across real dead bodies while looking for water Pokémon and at least one car crash (that we know of) was caused by a Pokémon Go player who wandered into the street without looking.

There have also been incidences of people landing up in hospital from chasing Pokémon into hazardous areas and, breaking and entering after private properties were mistakenly put up as public areas. Criminals have also picked up on ways to take advantage of Pokémon Go players. A group of teenagers had placed a beacon to an isolated PokéStop (places where free items like eggs and potions can be found) to lure people who they would then rob. Luckily they have been caught but no doubt this incident gave a few people ideas.

All of the bad things and controversies aside, Pokémon Go might be on its way to having a positive impact on the sometimes isolating world of tech. There has been an increase in people complaining about sore legs because, get this, they’ve been walking much more while on the lookout for Pokémon. They’re getting fresh air and exercise without even realising it. Players are going to places that they have never been before or would never go to had it not been for the game. Also, because so many people congregate in the same places at the same time, players communicate with each other in the real world and bond with each other over the Pokémons they’ve caught or the teams they are in.

There are even guides already published about how to enhance your Pokémon Go experience. Some tips include how to toss a Poké Ball in the most effective way (yes, there are different techniques), what lures work best to bring Pokémons to your current location and how to birth your own Pokémon.

Pokémon Go has had worldwide release on iOS and Android devices but unfortunately it is currently only available in the US, Australia and New Zealand. Further releases have been paused until the developers are “comfortable” due to servers not being able to currently handle the mass influx of people who want to play the game. Of course, not too long after its release, people already found ways of installing APKs on Android phones to gain access to the game. Since Ingress and Pokémon Go is made by the same company, the geolocation infrastructure is already in place to do so.

Hopefully soon everyone will be able to catch ‘em all!
*augmented reality is the integration of digital or virtual information with the user’s real-world environment or live video.