Bullets and Roses: Pokemon Go

|July 20, 2016 0
Courtesy Pokemon
The game has instantly captured the fancy, attention and more pervasively, obsession of enthusiasts and critics alike. What’s Go-ing on here?

INDIA: Travelling between virtual and real world? That must not be ‘it’. There should be more that explains why a game is suddenly ruling the minds and thumbs of so many people across the globe. Why, as some even venture to argue, is a game more popular than porn?

Is it the idea of feeding the suddenly-voracious need of escapism for many exhausted with what’s going on in the world? Is it the game’s power of making a routine lane or bust-stop or café table look refreshing and challenging when you start immersing yourself in a world of new creatures?

Or is it the irony that a game, yes, A G.A.M.E is finally encouraging its users to go out and chuck the couch in favor of air, open surroundings and actual people?

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The paradox of exercising while you play!

About that, the game gets enough pats for aligning the creature-types well to a user’s surroundings and time slots. For a gamer who is in a park, there would be a grassy bug, for someone who is around a lake, the monster would be watery and similarly would change as per the time – day or night contexts.

To get into the groove first, this is what happens- the game uses a gamer’s smart-phone’s GPS, clock etc for location detection and aligns it with the narrative to make the creatures appear around the gamer (on the phone screen) and lure him/her to catch them.

So when gamers go about catching, collecting, training rats, snakes, dragons, eggs, swords, trees, dinosaurs, birds they end up travelling and walking around more.

But why now?

May be because now smartphones have allowed the ‘Go’ part with stuff like camera, GPS, navigation and map functions.

May be because the concept of AR (Augmented Reality) has pedaled past its flops and mistakes (from games like The Majestic that brought spooky real-life interruptions in gaming experience or Firefighter 360 for putting out fires or a game for catching Mosquitoes or apps like Foursquare or efforts like RobotVision or Avon perfume test or movies like The lawnmower Man). Now AR is cruising into smooth executions with smooth timing cracked well by San Francisco-based Niantic?

The game has done some of expected basics of AR well – like putting geo-tagged data on top of a mobile phone’s camera viewer using layers of data and superimposing characters with perfect timing, UI and simplicity while tapping into the game’s nostalgia power smartly.

In fact, so much is the boost in confidence for AR that the gamification idea at workplaces might be resurrected and soon we could see companies inserting such elements into tasks, work environments etc to make work less arduous and more fun.

There are new questions for Virtual Reality industry too, which has caught so much attention last year with Hololens and Google Glass etc., and might be sizing up such games for their potential as friends or foes ahead.

Ok, that should explain a teeming number of 20 million people trying to play the game or giving a run to Twitter in terms of active users in just a few days since it dawned in early July.

Pocket Monsters have arrived. And with much more fervor than the child cults of the 90s where kids went crazy for collections of Pokemon cards, characters and trivia or when TV actually kept children hooked.

But have any black blots also surfaced to chase here?

Don’t play and drive. Or jaywalk.

Or sleepwalk. Or drain-walk

Playing a game is fun, but playing a game and walking off a cliff or a kerb or smashing into a lamppost or worse, a car is definitely far from fun.

Gaming, with its quintessential addictive-highs and distraction-prone elements, has anyways been the poster child for criticisms of poor behavior, mental health and accidents.

Would you, for instance, like if your bank’s staff was handling sensitive numbers or your travel company booking an important flight while being distracted with a phone and running around for virtual monsters?

Chasing creatures in dangerous areas has come up as the utmost concern for many people. These areas can be as much of a mugger’s alley as a racist-prone corner.

Or something more unexpected?

Remember, how a player in Wyoming while on the quest for a rare creature in the countryside near her house hopped across a fence towards a water body and found something else- a dead body?

Then there is the beaten-to-death concern about privacy. A user is practically inviting inquisitive folks into his/her world with all the location, tracking and personal life snippets on a plate in such games.

If privacy is not a quibble for some gamers, then decorum and manners should be. When hospital beds, washrooms, office spaces or a Church trespassing become the playground for such a game, then apt questions pop about the boundaries getting drawn.

As per media reports, for example, Kuwait’s ministry has already taken up warning users about pointing camera phones at Pikachu in front of the Kuwaiti Emir’s palace, mosques, oil facilities or military bases. Egypt’s authorities are also reportedly investigating Pokemon GO for its dangers,

The very alignment between travel distance covered or game-stops and driving warrants a special caution for people who find the idea of driving and playing much more easy and relevant with this game. No wonder that police authorities and law bodies in many parts of the world have already issued warnings and are extra busy these days.

If not anything, at least the fast draining of battery or expensive data usage, thanks to all the GPS and game pressure, is enough to make users pause and think about the argument of moderation.

Or the virus-risks of downloading APKs of the game in an illegitimate manner. If only they can pause when on the ‘Go’?

Here is a game that is apparently great for instilling new friendships and rejuvenating the forgotten art of walking. A game that, albeit strong on cracking AR, comes with its risks of crossing thresholds, fences, streets, privacy gates, polite ways and data/battery limits.

No matter what we say, a parallel world of obsession, wanderlust and curiosity has opened its dykes. People are parking here with a new-found fever but would the Pikachu phase be a fizz or more, only a Ketchum can tell.

If he is and keeps chasing the right stuff, and not falling into a man hole, that is.

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