I’ve been playing video games since somewhere in the early 1990s, or maybe even before that. I’ve got over a quarter of a century’s worth of gaming experience and knowledge under my belt, so you can rest assured that I’m being honest when I say that I’ve seen a lot of things come and go in the world of gaming. I’ve seen the planet go into absolute meltdown with the launch of GTA V; I’ve also seen that media pick the Mortal Kombat games to shreds, among other things. However, I’ve never seen anything remotely close to the attention that Pokémon Go received upon launch.
It seemed almost instantaneous as soon as the app was available; social media exploded with posts regarding it and the adventure people were indulging in. It wasn’t the creators of the app, Niantic, or traditional news outlets that were pushing the games coverage, it was the players themselves. They took this game by the hand and helped raise it to undeniable heights within its first few hours with all the subtlety of a double barrelled shotgun fired through a bright green megaphone on top of a Paddy’s Day float. Pokémon trainers posted online relentlessly about the game, using its camera to snap shots of the army of pidgey and rattata that they were encountering. Along with this there were folks posting pictures of Pokémon appearing in bizarre places like diglett appearing from toilet bowls looking like a pink nosed turd or popping out of guys’ opened flies as they lie on their beds giving the impression that their genitals really needed some medical attention. This just added fuel to the quickly spreading fire and it didn’t take long for the flames to engulf the entire planet.
This campaign to drag Go’s name through the mud seems to be in full swing, and the Irish are no better. I spotted an article from a well-known Irish newspaper doing the rounds online. It opened up with flurry of derogative statements regarding the game and its players, describing them as zombies and stating the the country is infinitely more stupid than the reporter had initially expected. He then went on to claim that he knew very little about the game and refused to research it in fear of becoming dumber from the newfound knowledge. This was the exact point that I backed out of the article. I love a good debate; I love hearing all sides of the argument and then making up my own mind from the information I’d gained along the way. However, if a subpar journalist blatantly refuses to do his research into the topic that he’s writing about, then I’ll take great pride in refusing to waste my time by reading his uneducated drivel.
However, having said that Pokémon Go has earned some of the heat that it has received over the last month. Poorly placed pokéstops, locations where you can restock on items and earn a little EXP while you’re there, have led to a great deal of controversy. Many memorials and monuments worldwide that had been chosen as these stops have been seen as somewhat disrespectful. Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 disaster in America and holocaust museums being among the landmarks that Niantic probably should have thought twice about before inviting players to drop by for some bonus pokéballs and maybe a stray snorlax. Not that I’m placing all the blame on the developers here either. Sure, it was mighty stupid of them to do such a thing, but the players also have to raise their hands and admit their mistakes here. A little bit of common sense would tell you not to approach these kind of locations in order to flick balls at augmented reality generated staryu. However, to the best of my knowledge, many of these places have been removed through the game’s latest patch.
Contrary to what mainstream media may want you to believe, Pokémon Go is not all doom and gloom. We are not in the midst of a zombie ridden apokélypse. In fact, there’s a social aspect to this game that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. First of all this is a game of exploration where you are rewarded for walking. That’s correct, walking. Not decapitating monsters with a chainsaw, no pulling the spines out of ninjas or stabbing aliens in their alien faces; just walking. Each step you take in real life is recorded via your phone’s pedometer. These steps are then used to hatch eggs so you can discover more Pokémon. The bigger the distance required for the egg, the stronger or more rare its inhabitant will be.
With both a hugely successful social aspect that this game provides, coupled with the fact that players need to be constantly moving in order to discover different Pokémon breeds instead of a perpetual string of fucking weedle makes this a great way to meet new people and keep fit. Pokémon Go’s rise to fame has been an absolute joy to watch and even more joyous to be involved in. For all the negativity that has surrounded its career so far, there are countless stories of people making new friends, finding new leases on life, living out their childhood dreams of tracking down their favourite Pokémon and becoming increasingly healthy along the way. The hours and miles accumulated on the game so far are nothing but mind blowing, but this pales in comparison to the uplifting effects that Pokémon Go has had on countless lives across the world. Now that finally I’ve fastened my seatbelt on board the hype train, I can feel the energy that this game has produced, and looking through its rose tinted windows I can’t help but dream of what it must be like to catch something stronger than a damned magikarp!
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