Dialed middle son this afternoon, hadn’t talked in a few days and wanted to know if he knew about Pokemon Go. Raucous laughter took a moment to subside, gaining composure he replied ” I’m on the seawall hunting Pokemon”. What was I thinking? Of course you are.
He was six in 1995, the year Nintendo solidified Japanese anime in popular culture. The premise was simple – mythical Pokemon were not created equal, each one has unique abilities, basic powers were varied but common, all powerful Pokemon existed but were extremely rare. Human “trainers” captured Pokemon pitting one against the other in “battles”. Players started with a basic Pokemon, climbing levels as they acquired Pokemon and won battles.
As lone non-gamer in the household, it wouldn’t be fair to attempt discussion of Pokemon’s popularity. As a parent who fulfilled Nintendo Christmas wishes, drove kids to comic book stores to spend allowance on Pokemon trading cards, bought Pokemon pajamas, bedding, toys and lunch boxes – I “get” masterful simplicity capable of crowning Pokemon the second most lucrative game/media franchise in the world after Super Mario Brothers. As of September 2015, global revenue of 40.5 billion U.S. speaks to global phenomenon.
Last week Nintendo released Pokemon Go in a format dubbed “augmented reality”. Forget hand held controllers tied to television screens, Pokemon Go uses cell phone GPS to transform a player’s location into the matrix. “Go” is a literal term, play takes place in the real world. Ponder “real world” – get off the sofa, go play outside. The game knows where you are and what time it is, dispatching Pokemon accordingly. Locations where battles take place are called “gyms”. I won’t claim to understand intricacies, but had to laugh when reading Westboro Baptist Church, the den of U.S. abortion, homosexual and racial intolerance is ruled by pink Pokemon “Clefairy”. In accordance with game rules, nicked named “love is love” by the current gym leader.
Back to middle son. This afternoon he walked the seawall hunting Pokemon, late last night a twenty minute walk to join players in a local park. Apparently the game tracks distance – walking 10 kilometers allows players to “hatch” rare Pokemon. Calling his behavior uncharacteristic is putting it mildly.
Late this evening youngest son told me something that prompted another call to middle son, asking him “how did you download the game, it hasn’t been released in Canada?” Fervent hullabaloo clouded the fact Pokemon Go was only released in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. His answer left me feeling middle aged. No closer to understanding how to pirate video games, I knew one thing for certain – Pokemon Go was worth the effort. Augmented is the new reality of gaming, I don’t have to play games to know Pokemon Go single-handily revolutionized the future of entertainment.