If you’ve recently seen a bunch of sweaty, pale, unfit people who look like they generally don’t go outside very often, congratulations, you’re witnessing the phenomenon known as Pokemon Go, the new augmented reality game recently released for certain mobile phone platforms. Pokemon Go is a game that combines three things. Augmented Reality, geocaching and Pokemon. Maybe I should step back and explain what these three things are.
Augmented Reality, also known as AR, is when you can use a device to superimpose games and information right over a computer screen in real time. Let’s say your phone device has it’s email setup with AR. If you look at your table, there won’t be anything there, but hold up your phone to it, and using the camera to display your table, it will also show your email lying on the table as if it were physical mail. Now, this isn’t done with your phone typically, but with Microsoft’s Hololens, that idea is now a reality. Put on the Hololens, and an empty table can now hold a virtual board game, that responds to your hand gestures.
A Wild Koffing Appears! (in the car)
Geocaching is a game played outside, where people are given coordinates to locate with GPS devices. At this location there is usually a water resistant container, with a little log book. You find the geocache, put your name down on the log, then look for another. It’s been around since the year 2000. Think of it like a treasure hunt.
Pokemon is a video game franchise that has at least a couple dozen games under its belt. The premise is to search the game world for animals called Pokemon. These animals have powers, and you use your Pokemon to battle other Pokemon trainers. The goal of the game is to ‘Catch them all’. There are hundreds of different variety of Pokemon that can be caught. It’s one of the most popular video game franchises of all time.
Pokemon Go combines all three. Using AR, it layers the game play on top of your phone , and with your GPS locator in your phone, lets you track them on a map. Unlike the previous Pokemon games, you can’t simply play it at home on the couch. You actually have to get up and go find the Pokemon in the real world. Because of this, there are a lot of Pokemon players out in the sunlight, for the first time in months. And some of them are getting hurt, mugged, and finding dead bodies instead of Pokemon.
Now, I’m not a particularly huge Pokemon fan. Maybe it’s because I was a tad old when the originals came out, maybe it was because I got sick of the idea of trying to obtain a hundred percent completion on every damn game that was out, maybe it’s because the only pet I had growing up as a kid was a cat who was an asshole. There’s a lot of good reasons Pokemon is not for me.
Enter my girlfriend, Kat. You see, Kat loves Pokemon. She has Pokemon T-shirts, Pokemon water bottles, Pokemon figurines, Pokemon hats. Not to mention she’s played every Pokemon game. I was definitely in the know when it came out on Friday, which also happened to coincide with our one year anniversary. On our way out of town for a little weekend getaway, she’s getting me to frantically check for Pokemon at the Gas Station while we filled up. I’m proud to say I caught an Abra.
After returning from our weekend vacation, where there was no cell service or wifi, which meant no Pokemon, we arrived back at home and I started to unpack. We’ve been home for three minutes, and Kat asks me if I’d like to go for a walk. I’m pretty perplexed at this point, because Kat rarely wants to go out for a walk with me. I love to walk. I walk everywhere. My body is getting old and it’s nothing to write home about anymore, but my calves look like granite wrapped in silk. I haven’t owned a car in over a decade, and it’s not unusual for me to walk for an hour to get to a destination. So I hopped at the opportunity, even if it meant we’d have to stop every once and a while to catch a Pokemon or hit up a PokeStop.
You typically find two things at PokeStops. PokeBalls and Jesus.
We head over to Lethbridge University, because there is a lot of PokeStops over there. Pokestops are a refueling point, and they’re usually a landmark of some sort. We took turns looking for Pokemon, scrambling all over the campus looking for the little critters.
The fellah was right behind me.
The game play is straight forward. You walk around a map of your city, and occasionally your phone will buzz. If you look around, you’ll see a Pokemon. Touch it to engage it, and when you do that, the game will task you to throw a ball. If you hit the Pokemon, it’ll catch ’em (beware though, even though they might be in the ball, they can still escape and you’ll have to try again). If you wait too long or miss too many throws, the Pokemon will get angrier and angrier and eventually disappear.
It took us a long time to get this shot, and Pikachu was pissed.
They’re doing a lot of renovations at the University right now, so a lot of the campus was unreachable. Now, Kat is a stickler for rules, but if there’s one thing she loves more than rules, it’s Pokemon. Soon we’re hopping fences, ignoring ‘Danger – Rattlesnakes’ signs and full on bush wacking it to find Pokemon.
Did I mention the part about rattlesnakes? Because at one point, due to construction, we had to turn around and backtrack. And guess what’s in our path, the one we just walked over? A rattlesnake. He wasn’t shaking his tail yet, but he certainly was making some noise and letting us know we were in the wrong neck of the woods.
Look! A wild goddamn rattlesnake appeared!
The really, really strange part was the Pokemon gyms. These are strongholds that can be contested by anyone playing the game. You take one of your Pokemon, pit it against the person who’s at the gym, and if you win, the gym is now yours. Other players can come to that gym and dethrone you if they beat your Pokemon. At every gym we found, there was at least two or three people, all a little out of shape and with pale skin, battling over these gyms. You’d walk up and they’d say “Pokemon Go?” and you’d nod your head. You’d see packs of video game nerds walking in the park, all of them staring at their phones.
This is the new reality of video games. Virtual reality is around the corner, so video games won’t always be the favored activity of couch potatoes. This is great because it’ll get dorks out of the house and interacting with other humans in the flesh. My girlfriend will actually go out on walks with me, as long as there’s enough Pokemon in the area. If you are out there, Pokemon trainers, just keep your head up. The real world has vehicle accidents, creeks to fall into, and occasionally, rattlesnakes.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. I’m not joking, rattlesnakes are scary.
p.s.s. There’s a Pokemon gym right by our apartment. There’s now at least three fat dudes with Fedoras there at all times.