How to get into the game craze of 2016 and avoid dangers
Pokemon Go is the latest release in the Pokemon phenomenon. This mobile game has to be played by going out of the house. It is an excuse to visit some of the most interesting and popular places in your city, but beware there are real world dangers in playing a game that takes you outside.
Image courtesy of Iphonedigital @ Flickr
What is Pokemon
Pokemon, or Pokect Monsters, dates back to the 1990s and was a huge phenomenon since then. The main idea revolves around capturing various Pokemon creatures using Poke Balls and using them to battle other people's Pokemon. Each Pokemon have different abilities and strengths, so a battle involves choosing the right power to defeat your opponent's Pokemon.
Photo of a Pokemon fan dressed as pikachu courtesy of Pikawil @ Flickr
Part of playing the games is being able to battle other real world players and swap the various Pokemon that you captured. This has been done through a wide range of methods depending on the technology used. Pokemon Go is simply the next step forward.
There is also an animated TV series and films. The story lines mostly revolve around a trainer Ash and one of the Pokemon Pikachu.
What is Pokemon Go
With Pokemon Go you use an app to catch the Pokemon. The main features of the game is that you have to go out to real world locations to catch the virtual creatures.
You will receive an alert telling you that a Pokemon is nearby. Then the game uses what is called augmented reality. Your phone shows you the world through your phone's camera, with the Pokemon overlaid on the real world. You have to look around using your phone's camera and screen until you find a Pokemon and then swipe to capture it.
Image Courtesy of Darren Mark Domirez @ Flickr
You can then develop and use the Pokemon that you capture to battle other players. This is how they make money, but charging you to make things go faster. However you can still play without paying if you choose to.
So you want to catch them all
Pokemon Go is a free app that you can download for your phone. Then it is a matter of walking around finding Pokemon. The game measures that you are walking around and it helps develop your Pokemon faster. Also to find as many different Pokemon as possible you need to leave your neighbourhood and explore the wider community.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Yes this game not only makes people go out in the real world, it encourages them to exercise. The game is smart enough so you can't cheat it by going around in a car or a train, as it checks that you are walking and also tracks you using GPS to make sure you are moving (but not too fast).
Dangers and issues
Pokemon Go has exploded in popularity, and of course taking people out of their houses to go to random locations to seek out virtual characters is not without its problems. The main issue is that people are focusing too much on their phones rather than looking around them and so have an accident. People have walked out in front of traffic and fallen over cliffs, all in the search for virtual monsters.
Other issues include where people seek out Pokemon. Locations where the most Pokemon are have been selected by how much social media activity has occurred at those locations, especially photographs. Some people report being encouraged to look for Pokemon in local forests at night, while other places include museums, private houses and the Darwin Police Station.
Mostly the issue comes down to people going where they shouldn't, or even congregating in large numbers in public locations at night. A lot of it simply comes down to common courtesy.
In the US a gang worked out that they could set a beacon in the game to attract other players to a park at night, and mug them. Really though it comes down to following most of the same rules you would use in normal life.
It is a little bit wrong to focus on the negative aspects of this game. Most of these come from people being stupid or perhaps obsessed. Instead we have a game that takes you to some of the most active places on social media. While this can include places you wouldn't or shouldn't visit, it also means that you can explore your city. Visit parks and tourist attractions near and far.
There is also a social aspect to the game, which means there are Pokemon Go groups popping up in cities all around the world. You can gather together with other players, hunt some Pocket Monsters, swap creatures and challenge each other to Pokemon battles.
More than that, the game requires that you walk around. It is time to be the very best, like no one ever was. Because to catch them is the real test.
For me it has been a fun game that gives me an excuse to walk around and explore my local community. I am unlikely to become a Pokemon addict though. Expect a lot more augmented reality games in the near future.