Considering that Pokémon Go came out this month, I’ve been obsessed. I’ve been leaving the subway one stop early to hatch my eggs in new places and try to find Pokémon. Last weekend, I went to park to search for rare Pokémon with my buddies, just to find hundreds of other people doing exact the same. Even while writing this post, I kept taking breaks to check if any new Pokémon stumbled into my building. (Nothing, simply another Doduo.)
I understand I’m not alone. It seems that every “child” around has been running around trying to catch them all. Apple says that Pokémon Go was actually downloaded more times in its first week than any other iPhone app in history, increased Nintendo’s value over $7 billion, and received unrelenting coverage from practically almost every media publication. Storefront businesses are installing signs that read “Pokémon for paying customers only.” Police departments are informing people that they can capture Pokémon perfectly fine outside of law enforcement structures.
I hate to rain on anyone’s parade here, however, how long will this last? Due to the fact that as ubiquitous, as Pokémon Go is at the moment, there are some concerns with the whole concept and technology. This isn’t really the very first mobile game to entirely capture the general public’s attention. And its predecessors ultimately fell by the cultural wayside weeks later. Remember: Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, Farmville, 2048? Words with Friends? Nintendo’s previous massive mobile game, Miitomo, exploded for a week before everybody just got tired of it.
Regardless of its appeal, Pokémon Go is not a well-designed video game. Its only real mechanics are swiping and strolling, and the reward mechanics are messed up. Unlike previous games in where a Pokémon’s rarity correlated with its strength, in Go, the power is reliant on the number of times you gather a certain Pokémon.
For something so lauded for bringing people together and creating new friendships, Pokémon Go is surprisingly just a single-player game. You can just see your avatar, so even if dozens of other idiots are around you, they will not show up on your screen. There’s no other way to chat in-game or perhaps trade Pokémon, the very mechanism the game was built on. Players can only interact with each other through club fights, but even then you can’t actively play against somebody; you have to simply leave a Pokémon in a location, so people were passing by can fight it individually.
It does not enhance a hangout with friends or a walk through the park; it supplants that activity for itself.
Pokémon Go also happens to be an unbelievably self-centered game. Unlike other apps that can run in the background and send out push alerts, the game requires that you look at your phone at all times, consuming up battery life and data.
Given all this, it’s amazing that such a passionate social culture has emerged, entirely organically, around this game. Nevertheless, that’s a testament to the strength of the Pokémon brand, and the fond memories millennials still have for it, in place of the game itself. And fond memories and novelty just get you up until now.
Niantic, the game’s developer, currently prepare for biweekly updates, which will consist of trading and brand-new methods to communicate with checkpoints and gyms. However to keep this game relevant, Niantic will eventually need to refine the social aspect. Including a buddies list and chat, the element would help users keep in touch and create more of a reward to play the game. Including other ways of interaction, like battling would open up new avenues of play (and perhaps revenue). Possibly there might be a way to broaden the gym system, so there are local clubhouses that motivate in-person meet-ups and mix with plans for sponsored places.
I sincerely hope these possible updates come out in time. Congregating at midnight in a local park over the weekend is among my happiest current memories. I’m simply afraid that next week I’ll go to the park and discover myself aiming to capture Pokémon alone. However then once again, people were warning that Pokémon was a craze back in 1999, and here we are.