Pokemon Go is taking over the world. I don’t think that is in any way an exaggeration. From little boys and girls to the grown-ups who used to be boys and girls dreaming of catching pokemon, the game has captured the imagination and has taken Nintendo to heights it hasn’t seen since the first days of Mario and Zelda. And for all its glitches, bugs and server-crashing nightmares just as you’re about to take that gym you’ve had your eye on for the last hour, the game is definitely addictive. I mean, what’s three more miles if it means you hatch an awesome pokemon and get a tonne of stardust?
We’re now getting more exercise, chatting to strangers in the street and having a huge amount of fun doing it. Who’d have thought gaming could be so useful?
Well, a lot of people, it’s just never been so prevalent before. The trick with Pokemon Go is its use of augmented reality (AR) – the opportunity to see the digital world interacting the real one (unlike virtual reality which fully immerses you in a digitally created world).
What this means for game creators is that the limits for creation are disappearing. This may seem a strange concept, given the power that virtual reality gaming has in creating completely different worlds. But what it means is that developers don’t just have to think of new worlds, or redesign the world we already live in, but explore new ways of interacting with the world we have. For mobile gaming in particular, where a camera is readily available for capturing the user’s view of the world, this opening of exploration provides scope for new and extraordinary content.
At the most basic level, we have Snapchat’s filters which turns you and your friends into pieces of toast and puppies. At the highest, we could be looking at a world in which surgical operations on patients could be conducted digitally, the simulation providing a clearer map of what could happen, and preventative measures being made to save even more lives. That’s pretty cool, right? So, there are fewer limits to creation and game development as a whole. No longer are we restricted to the 8 bit of the 90s, but enter something far more sophisticated and world-changing.
In gaming terms, what is so perfect about Pokemon Go is the use of AR – for the first time, gamers can feel like they are actually catching pokemon for real. It isn’t some fantastical creation of developers (expect, of course, it is) but something that holds a digital ‘truth’ because it interacts so cleverly with the real world. No longer are you removed from the current world in order to game, but are immersed in something that feels more, well, real.
Maybe I’m making a bigger deal out of it than I should. We are probably a way off from the surgery scenario, but the possibility is still there. With Nintendo and Pokemon Go, it is a possibility that hadn’t been fully realised in the public consciousness until now.
Is the game perfect? Of course not. It’s potential.
Game design courtesy of Niantic and Nintendo.
Screenshot courtesy of Jennifer Vennall