My name is Jamie Gagnon and I’m an addict.
When I first purchased a 3DS (very late in the game; 2014), I was obsessed with Streetpass. The mere notion of “collecting” other 3DS users and using their characters in the games in a “free-to-start” type gameplay style (as Nintendo dubs it), was an intriguing mechanic that kept me running back and forth between al of the McDonald’s in the area and our local Best Buy in an attempt to get all of the Streetpass achievements and respective coins I could possibly acquire.
And in the past two, almost three years, I’ve been into a healthier lifestyle, assimilating gardening, exercise, and especially casual walking into my daily routine.
I never in a million years expected a perfect union of those two passions into one addictive game; and I never expected it to be such a massive phenomenon that’s sweeping the nation.
That game is Pokémon GO.
Niantic Inc., (the developer) utilized their proprietary engine (originally used in their game, Ingress, which was developed when they were a part Google), has capitalized on millions around the globe getting out of their comfort zone, and into the real world, which is most certainly a “pro” of this concept (we’ll get to these and the “Cons” later).
Now, I don’t play that many games these days as I attempt to write, podcast, shoot video and film, etc. more frequently; but this game is the exact kind of game I latch onto, and it will prove to be a downfall against my creative efforts (one of those pesky cons).
The first day I tried this was the day after it’s July 6th release. I walked to the nearby Pokéstop and Pokémon Gym, Chapin Park in Bangor, ME. When I arrived, I was a little apprehensive as I’m newly thirty-one, and when I first played Pokémon, I was already old (at 14). So when I approached the location and only saw a ten-year old boy, I was getting incredibly embarrassed. Still, this being my first time, I figured I’d see what all the fuss was about.
The boy was on his phone, unaware of his surroundings, until he noticed me in the corner of his eye, cutting the parking lot making a b-line directly towards him (and the Pokéstop). Instead of a fearful look, he had a slight twinge of inquisition. Then I swung my phone around to face him, and he immediately perked up. “It’s so awesome, huh?!”
At that moment, instead of further embarrassment, I found some comfort in the fact that at least this boy was playing too. Then we walked around the Pokéstop, looking for Pokémon together, unsure of how this was working. I had recently purchased $5 worth of coins (550 to be exact), and I used a Lure Module. Together we stood there, catching incoming Pokémon left and right.
The nearby gym was inaccessible to me, as I had yet to reach Level 5, but by the time I had realized that, we were swarmed with real life people who spotted the Lure Module’s signature rose petals on their maps nearby. It was straight out of a B-movie zombie apocalypse flick: from every direction, over a dozen people flocked to the same location, including some friends I had known that lived close by.
It was through this friend that I discovered how to access the Pokéstop locations for items: Spin the disc, of course. From this point on, I continued my walk downtown (like I do quite often anyway), but found myself altering my course and halting to a dead stop when a Pokémon attacked my avatar. The obsession had begun.
This epidemic continued as I unraveled just how severe the game had become. I would test the area, and threw down another Lure Module to attract more people. Sure enough, dozens more swarmed that location.
As the days went on, I found my work ethic dwindling at my job: venturing off into the corners of the building to catch a Caterpie or the oft-encountered Pidgey; it was bad.
This past Saturday night, I went to my friends’ house in Milford to play board and video games as I’m wont to do, and we ended up driving around to different locations scouring the town’s stops for the more elusive Pokémon. We soon found ourselves back in downtown Bangor walking aimlessly like the aforementioned zombies, and then back to Orono where we decided to hit the University of Maine.
On the way there, I had the phone on my lap, and would examine the Pokémon that were nearby. As the driver, I don’t have to tell you how incredibly dangerous this was, and as a point of proof, I veered off into a narrow shoulder on the road, just for looking down once. (LESSON LEARNED: DO NOT Pokéhunt and drive folks).
To further cement this ideal into my mind, when we arrived to UMaine, I had a run in with the campus police. We would venture on the roads around the campus reaching close to the near thirty Pokéstops on-site (Seriously, go there now). Here, I thought it to be safe to drive and pull over at will to collect every stop on UMaine grounds. But as we approached the campus police, his first question was: “Are you guys Pokémon hunting?”
He knows… “Yes, officer.”
“Well, just so you know, there is a $310 fine for driving distracted. Others in the vehicle can use the app, just as long as you aren’t.”
He was super nice… he could have busted me right there. So I handed it over to my friend, and he double-fisted the rest of the way.
Now, let’s discuss the Pros and the Cons, shall we?
|-It gets people outside, moving around, and not sitting in front of their televisions to play video games.||-It’s extremely dangerous. One wrong move could bring you into a bad part of the neighborhood, or lead you off a bridgelead you off a bridge or road.|
|-It’s a social game; bringing people together and in similar locations.
|-It accesses your information (especially if you have an iPhone and sign in with Google).|
|-It teaches you about your cities’ surroundings, including local places of worship, local landmarks, and parks.
|-People now more than ever, look like mindless zombies.|
What surprises me the most about this game is the sheer penetration of the market. As of press time, the app has been downloaded over NINE MILLIONS times!
People whom I never expected to play this game have been enamored since it’s almost week-old release. The biggest reason for this is the perfect permutation of technological market share, and nostalgia (mixed with a bit of curiosity).
Think about it: nearly everyone has a smart phone these days, and since the game is “free-to-start,” anyone can pick up and play. To play a traditional Pokémon game, one must own a 3DS, and then buy the game cartridge. Now, they simply have to download yet another app on their phone and voila; they’re hooked.
What’s the verdict? Pokémon GO may be more good than bad, but the addiction is real, and if you download it, be prepared to play hundreds of hours while learning about (and avoiding) your surroundings.
What are your thoughts on the game? Have you downloaded it yet, or are you one of the last holdouts? Comment below!
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Bonus! Learn of some strange things related to Pokémon GO here.