Last week, the dreams of millions of Pokemon lovers came true with the release of the new augmented reality game, Pokemon GO. The adventure game brings digital video game characters into our everyday reality, and has completely taken over today’s pop culture, creating new friendships, causing people to miss their trains, led people to strip clubs, and one unlucky player has even found a dead body. Restaurants are being forced to put up signs in their windows that read, “Pokemon For Paying Customers Only.” Those who live in more rural areas are loudly voicing their complaints about the lack of Pokestops and Gyms. Police departments around the country feel compelled to release advice about how to play the game as safely as possible. For the first time in a couple years, Pokemon is back with a vengeance.
Since the late 1990s, gamers have been imagining what the world would be like if we could actually roam the Earth searching for Pokemon, battling other trainers, leveling up in gyms, and of course, “catching them all”. Finally, this game gets us as close as possible to an authentic Pokemon universe. Just like the original game, we get to choose between the iconic three starters: Squirtle, Charmander, and Bulbasaur. Pokemon GO is reviving old obsessions and convincing people to leave their couches, but most importantly, bringing the technology of augmented or mixed reality into the limelight and into the hands of millions of people around the world.
But, what has made this game so popular so quickly? What does this mean for the future of gaming? Pokemon GO combines nostalgia with new gaming technology to produce a wildfire of insane news headlines, millions of app downloads, and Pokeball purchases – with real money. Older gamers get to relive their childhoods of running around with their Pokemon friends on their 90’s Gameboys, but this time, for real. The game’s tech combines the real world with the universe of Pokemon, giving old and new gamers alike a whole new gaming experience gaming. Augmented reality allows people to explore the outdoors with their friends, see Pokemon in real time, challenge gym leaders, and battle other trainers. Pokemon GO layers one universe on top of another to create a gaming experience many out there have never even considered to be possible. It’s thrilling to look at your phone, and right there before your eyes, is a Fearow, a Machamp, and if you’re lucky, a Pikachu.
No game before has ever been so extensive, worldwide, and engaging. Without the technology of augmented reality, this feat would not be possible. Augmented reality allows Niantic to place Pokemon, Gyms, and Pokestops all over the country without actually having to build anything except for the game itself. GPS positioning, combined with holographic animation layered over the real world, produces a game like nothing we have ever seen before. Because Niantic has placed thousands of interactive hotspots across countries across the entire planet, and your phone knows where you are all times, Pokemon GO is likely the largest gaming experience we have ever known.