Gotta Catch ‘Em All: A discussion of Pokemon Go
There’s no denying it: Pokemon Go is just crushing it! In just these past few weeks, the game has increased Nintendo’s worth, attracted customers to local businesses, and gotten lazy children on their feet! It’s gotten some negative publicity too with increased accidents and server outages, but the fact that this app has become a viral craze in such a short period of time is really quite amazing.
matthewsolarski brought up some great questions as I was catching pokemon a couple days after the game’s release. What makes this game so great? How does it work? How are pokemon showing up as you walk?
Let’s see if we can answer a few of these.
Why is the game great?
The game draws on nostalgia. If you were a kid growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, chances are that you grew up watching Pokemon. It was a light-hearted anime about a young boy on a journey to become a pokemon master. He would go from town-to-town with his pokemon friends and challenge gyms to earn badges. (You can read more here)
Pokemon Go allows its users to embark on that same journey to pokemon masterhood.
2. Easy to use
The game is simple to navigate and visually easy on the eyes. The goal of the game is up to the user. The player can do a number of things like catch pokemon to build their pokedex (or handheld encyclopedia for pokemon), evolve pokemon with stardust to unlock different stages of pokemon, battle gym leaders to earn experience points and increase their team’s strength, etc…
3. Gets people moving
The game is a fun way to get children and adults on their feet. Because the game highlights the number of steps needed to capture a specific pokemon in the area, it encourages people to move.
How does it work?
Pokemon Go draws heavily on Ingress, an augmented-reality MMOG in which players must capture portals to control a mysterious energy before it controls the population. In Ingress’s early stages, players helped to determine portals of cultural importance which have now been used as pokestops in Pokemon Go. Pokestops are “rest areas”, if you will, where the user can refill on items like pokeballs, potions, and treats.
The pokemon that show up on a player’s location are based on the location’s geographic makeup in Google Earth. For example, if a player is by a water body, water-type pokemon appear more frequently. The number of pokemon seen nearby is unclear, but most likely due to the popularity of the location.
The game is supported by a NoSQL database and was built using Unity. As the game looks to add more functionality, I’ll be updating its makeup.
What are its flaws?
Pokemon Go is no-where near a perfect application. There are a number of server outbreaks and most recently, potential hacker threats. The server outages are most likely due to the game’s popularity and the server’s inability to keep up with demand.
While the game is still gaining momentum, without a social aspect, it will eventually dwindle. As it is now, players only have the ability to battle their pokemon at gyms, but not between friends. Additionally, players are unable to trade their pokemon, leaving them with the dilemma of which pokemon to transfer forever. Niantic is working on these functions, but time is of the essence!
One of my favorite Pokémon Go-related stories so far (though it was wildly exaggerated in a viral FB post y’all may have seen): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/animal-shelter-pokemon-go-walk-dogs_us_578661f5e4b08608d332761f
That’s actually a pretty smart move! Hopefully the players will be extra cautious when crossing the streets though!