So last night my son went out with my partner’s son to try and ‘Catch ‘Em All!’ on Pokémon Go. The game hasn’t released in the UK yet, but they are both on it as that’s what happens when you restrict access to something in a digital age. What impresses me most about Pokémon Go is that it has genuinely changed the face of mobile gaming in just over a week. The image of a Pokémon player has shifted dramatically and Nintendo have cornered the same market they secured with the original Wii console, namely EVERY DAMN BODY! The national news is reporting upon Pokémon Go stories, which in turn are more ‘read’ than the U.S. Presidential Race, Theresa May’s new cabinet or a murder/suicide case. This is good, right?
I’m not so sure…
So as you may well be aware I never got the whole Pokémon thing. Mostly as I was a blue-blooded SEGA fan-boy and the opportunity to chide my school friends for playing a game about pocket monsters – but weirdly not these guys – was too much to bear. I didn’t care whether or not it was a good game, if the gameplay was immersive and deep. Nope. They were big silly pants people playing on their stupid Lameboys. This set in a rot that would impact the franchise in my mind’s eye. I own about fifteen Pokémon games. Haven’t played any of them. I own the Pikachu edition Gameboy Color. I have the Pokémon N64. My son is hugely into the games. But me, nope. Still stuck with the image that Pokémon is for Ninty fan-boys and babies.
But then Nintendo announced that they were working to bring franchises to the mobile platform, with Pokémon Go being a major part of that. Finally a Pokémon game that kind of made sense. Augmented Reality is an aspect of gaming that I LOVE, so finally there was a Pokémon game I could potentially enjoy. The ‘adventure’ of finding these pocket monsters was now an actual adventure. In the actual world. Just perfect.
Perfect until my son decided he wanted to go out and hunt Pokémon in the local park.
Now I am not a worrying parent. I don’t fret over dark vans parked near schools or about the ingredients of a Ribena juice box. I don’t take too much time to worry about the affects of the paradigm shift from LA schools to Academies. But suddenly I found myself saying “Don’t go near any Pokémon Lures!”
What the Hell?!
Why, of all times, did my subconscious select now to suddenly be a middle-class worrier? Well I guess the proliferation of news articles didn’t help.
As well as stories of robbers staking out Pokestops and Gyms ready to steal a smart phone and my mind was clearly shaped by a flurry of stories that have come out within DAYS of the game’s release.
So I told my son not to follow lures, to keep an eye out for anyone who looks a bit odd – other than Pokémon players, obv – and to enjoy himself. Because despite the headlines there is one key thing here. He was going outside. By choice. On a school night. Like kids used to do. I was talking to a nineteen year old colleague the other night about what I had to enjoy in the evenings growing up. “Trees and a field and some breeze blocks mostly…”I lament the fact that most of my son’s social activity is over a headset, but I never felt that it wasn’t enough. Hell, if I had the chance to be more selective with whom I socialised with via the medium of gaming lobbies I would likely have done the same as him instead of pretending I enjoyed smoking and having sex in a WW2 pillar box. Now he was prepared to not only go out, but to go out with his sort-of-step-brother and hunt together. So now the ante had been upped to outside activities with a real person. So, on the whole a good move.
My concerns really don’t lie with the app, nor do the news stories really bother me too much. This is the age of 24/7 news networks and a story about a teen with a phone game finding a dead body is too good not to run when the alternative is ‘THE WORLD IS FUCKED!!’. I do wonder what impact this could have on the social structure of the modernised world though. Candy Crush resulted in people taking extended breaks while they ploughed millions into King’s banks and Farmville famously had 1% of the global population playing at one point, resulting in a new group of gamers stepping into the light – the adults who don’t like ‘video games’.
So how will Pokémon Go affect the world? Well we are already seeing Craigslist and Gumtree adverts advertising real world training for $20 per hour. We have seen Central Park in New York City become a crowded hub for Pokémon players. We have seen different agencies requesting that Pokémon players don’t wander into their police stations/homes without checking where they are first. Someone even found Pikachu on Downing Street while awaiting Theresa May PM. Will we see ‘true’ social gaming? Will the bubble burst as quick as it formed? Will Animal Crossing release and ruin any chance for my partner to ever have sex with me again? Who knows. All I know is that my kid wants to go out more, wants to socialise more and he is willing to listen to advice and concerns. That’s a win.
So while we await the official UK release I sit reading the flurry of Tweets on the subject as people spot Pokémon in odd places, renaming them to curse words and end up bumping into friends while trying to claim gyms. I have tried the game. It’s alright. But I’m waiting for the official release – after trying it unofficially – as I am on iOS and I don’t like the idea of opening my phone up to any risks. Which reminds me. My eldest and I were talking about the Android APK files and how some could contain Trojans. He didn’t know what a Trojan was. Bloody kids.
“Is it a platform exclusive Pokémon?”