Hey, look over there, it’s Pikachu!
If you heard that and immediately went for your phone, there’s a good chance you play Pokémon GO, the new augmented reality mobile game from Nintendo and Niantic.
The game’s popularity has been riding high since its launch at the beginning of summer.
MCCC students are, naturally enough, joining the ranks of intrepid trainers, and in some cases, it’s bringing them closer to their family.
“We live where there’s a bunch of PokéStops,” Brittney Strauss says, “so we literally just walk up and down the river. It gives me and my mom time to hang out and actually bond over something.”
For both her and Megan Engle, Pokémon GO is a great way to spend quality time with their mothers.
“My mom hasn’t picked a team yet,” Megan says, referring to the three teams that players can join in the game once they reach Level 5.
But not everyone’s pleased with the game.
PokéStops are areas in the game usually located at local landmarks. At these, players can get PokéBalls, Berries, and Eggs, among other things.
On campus, they number only two: the Z-Building (listed as The Meyer Theater) and The Potter’s Field sign (listed as simply The Potter’s Field).
Some students, such as Brittney and Bri Nocella, feel that more need to be added.
It may help draw in more players, aside from enhancing the gaming experience for existing players in the student body.
Bri, among others, also thought that more interesting Pokémon might bring in more players as well.
That said, the campus itself isn’t lacking in Pokémon. A brief look around campus reveals a better selection than one might initially suspect.
While the common or garden Weedle, Caterpie, Venonat, Rattata, Pidgey, and Zubat are present, also sighted were Drowzee, Gastly, Meowth, Seel, and, remarkably, a Kingler! (The latter two are presumably lurking in the duck pond by C-Building and the La-Z-Boy Theater. Keep your eyes peeled, trainers!)
There are some Pokémon currently unavailable in the game – and not just because the only ones present are from the Generation I. These include Ditto, the transforming Pokémon, and Legendary Pokémon, such as Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, AKA the Legendary Birds.
However, the three birds do appear, after a fashion. They are the mascots for Team Mystic (Articuno), Team Instinct (Zapdos), and Team Valor (Moltres).
The teams represent different styles of Pokémon Training.
Blanche, head of Team Mystic, champions the use of wisdom and calm analysis.
Spark, in charge of Team Instinct, quite obviously thinks that instinct and intuition are best.
Candela, the leader of Team Valor, believes training to be the strongest is key.
Players are to choose the team they feel fits them most. Of those interviewed, three were Team Valor, one was Team Mystic, and one Instinct.
But one person – the only gentleman who said he played the game and consented to an interview – tells a different tale.
“I didn’t really get too into it,” Clayton Blackwell says. “Tried it once or twice, decided it took up too much room, and deleted it.”
It’s an understandable thought. The game takes up 113MB of phone data, and even when running in the background, can use almost 400MB of RAM.
With all the other apps and files on most people’s phones, space can certainly be at a premium. Most apps like Pokémon GO take up a lot of room and memory.
While most readers will at least have a concept of what Pokémon (or at least Pikachu) is, “augmented reality” (AR) is another matter entirely.
It’s another increasingly popular concept, one tied closely to virtual reality – the likes of which can be seen in the upcoming Oculus Rift system, or in a more fantastical form in Star Trek’s holodecks.
What AR is, in a nutshell, is images superimposed over real-time footage or images of the real world.
Such games are relatively new on the scene, but, as previously stated, are rapidly gaining popularity, as evidenced by the variety. The genre spread in this new field is already impressive, ranging from science fiction (SpecTrek and Niantic’s own Ingress), to gang war (Life is Crime), to horror (numerous zombie-related games), to adventure (Pokémon GO).
While the gaming angle is new, AR as a whole goes much further back. Almost 50 years, in fact!
The initial tests of this technology came in 1968, when Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull developed the so-called “ultimate display.”
This system, called The Sword of Damocles, used head-mounted screens to generate entire rooms from wireframe.
It was simple and clunky by modern standards (the user had to be securely strapped in to the display for it to work properly), but at the time it was revolutionary.
Despite this, nothing much came of AR until 1992, when Louis Rosenberg developed Virtual Fixtures to assist the United States Air Force, allowing them to do remote field work.
NASA began to use a similar system (X-38) in 1999, allowing scientists to further develop cheap yet reliable spacecraft. It didn’t reach mobile phones until 2004, courtesy of German developers.
It would seem that with the advent of these AR games, the gaming industry is marching forward into a brave new era.
These new kids on the block are even being called “the future of gaming.” If this is the future, then it seems bright. Hopefully more franchises develop engaging titles such as Pokémon GO in the near future, and help push this fledgling industry forward.