Monday, July 18, 2016

Go B A Master: Pokemon Go

While my computer recovers from open heart surgery and the world is abuzz about Sci-Fi and Fantasy news, I am trying to get back into blogging on a regular basis. Judging by the emails I get, I know people are waiting for me, so I want to thank you and get back on with it.

It just so happens that in the world of Pokémon, there are two major topics being discussed right now. I want to give them both their due, without confusing anybody looking for one and not the other. I will be posting articles about Pokémon Go here on Fantasy & SciFi Lovin', and I will be posting articles about Pokémon Sun and Moon over on Insomniatic. Virtually all of these articles will be of editorial rather than news nature.

Let's kick off the discussion of what everybody on the internet these days is expected to have an opinion on: Pokémon Go. This mobile game may be the future of gaming; alternately, it may be a flash fad, nearly forgotten by this time next year and 2016's equivalent to the Half-Blood Prince and Y2K frenzies.

On the side of the future of gaming: Pokémon Go continues the Pokémon tradition of innovation in portable gaming. In the late 1990s, it was one of the first major exclusive Game Boy games (excluding games that were part of a series which shared mechanics with their console versions). It was by far the most successful advocate of the link cable, and probably the reason why most people who owned one did so.

With each successive generation, the multiplayer capabilities would be expanded, to the point where the current generation is widely considered to be an MMO for non-MMO players. Players of Pokémon X, Y, Omega Ruby, and Alpha Sapphire can trade, battle, exchange power ups and secret bases, and more with any player on the planet with access to a Wi-Fi connection.

Let's move on to Pokémon Go. To start with, it's a mobile game - it is accessed via Google Play and the App Store, not a Nintendo handheld system. Unlike most mobile games associated with Pokémon, however, it has all of the staples of a Pokémon game (catching Pokémon, leveling them up, battling) albeit in a simplified form. The end result is that it is accessible to more people than ever, without being so simplified that it loses its appeal.

My writing partner while working on this article.
The next step is its functionality with the real world. Again, this is rather simple, but it is more than most games are able to pull off. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire already experimented with the idea of taking photos with your Pokémon, but Pokémon Go allows you to do this any time, and with a device capable of sharing it to Facebook. The combination of photo opportunities is as endless as there are locations with a mobile signal, which almost guarantees going viral.

This all appears to be just the beginning of this technology - it is an experiment that has attained massive popularity. Mobile technology - both hardware and software - is improving by leaps and bounds every year. The fact that Pokémon Go falls short of high fan expectations for Augmented Reality (such as using individually placed Pokémon rather than reinterpreting camera input) comes more from the time it would take to program a more extensive game than hardware limitations. As long as innovation is profitable, there is no reason not to expect it to continue.

On the side of Go being a fad...I should mention Ingress. Ingress is the game Niantic was known for prior to Pokémon Go.  By all accounts it is a more complicated, original AR game with the same concept...and almost no publicity. Many Pokémon Go players never heard of Ingress until Pokémon Go came out, and it certainly did not make headlines, result in police warnings, or anything of that nature. It has a lot of downloads on the Play Store, but for an innovative game it didn't make a lot of waves.

Another reason to think Pokémon Go is likely to fade away is that we live in a culture of short attention spans. Outside of serious competitive battlers, the most recent main series games have largely fallen off the radar - and the non-remake Generation VI games even moreso. Pokémon Go simply doesn't have the mechanics to support a serious battling scene. Are its days numbered? It may be doomed to fall off the radar after the release of Sun and Moon - at least, without a serious update schedule for new content.
I plan to write several more of these articles, and have at least two ideas for things I definitely intend to address. I appreciate your comments and look forward to hearing what you want me to talk about!