Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pokemon Go - possibly the best game in the history of the world

When the News reported the frenzy created by Pokemon Go, I was sceptical about its merits. Stories of people causing accidents whilst driving and thousands of computer geeks mobbing religious monuments made me reluctant to become one of the players.

My opinion of the game changed when my son asked me to go for a walk with him. He only needed to walk another 300 metres to hatch his egg. I did not know what this meant, but I like going for walks. I loaded the game onto my smartphone as he guaranteed me that we would find something. Two hours later and I was hooked. We explored our neighbourhood and had a blast. I think the dog enjoyed it too.

For more than twenty years I have designed treasure hunts and navigational activities for corporate groups. I have spent many days photographing landmarks and exploring areas to be used for specific events. I have an appreciation of the difficulty in creating an activity that rewards success in such a way that you want to keep playing.  It can take two or more days to design a small race for a country town or CBD. I hate to think how long it would have taken to create this game.

It encourages physical  activity
The game is designed so that you want to go walking and exploring. The further you walk, the more Pokemon you will find. But you must also walk to Pokestops to collect more Poke balls that are essential for catching Pokemon. It was quite amazing to see the hundreds of people in our local park playing the game. My fitness watch is meant to motivate me to walk however the lure of virtual creatures is much more effective.

It is free
The activity can be played for hours in almost any populated area of park. I would be quite happy to pay for the pleasure of playing the game (don't tell Nintendo). The only cost is the data required to access the app. People can make in-app purchases but it is not necessary provided that you are willing to do some walking.

It is social
It can be played solo or in a group. It is non-competitive in the sense that when a Pokemon appears, it is accessible by all players. However, there is a competitive element when fighting for control of a gym. One afternoon, I was staggered to see the number of tradespeople playing the game.

It is well designed and fun
The game is quite sophisticated and incorporates GPS with augmented reality. The graphics are cute and playful and there are lots of random surprises when Pokemon appear and vanish.

The scale is mind boggling
It is difficult to comprehend the sheer number of landmarks, parks, shopping centres, beaches and places of interest that have been incorporated into the game, for just one small city. But when you think that that the game can be conducted across multiple countries it is like trying to understand how many stars are in the night sky.

It is unfortunate there have been some unpleasant incidents but this is not surprising considering the number of people are playing the game. I don't think Pokemon Go will be a lasting phenomenon but at this point in time, I honestly think it is the best game in the world. If you have been reluctant to try it, give it a go, it is a lot of fun.

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