Pokémon Go And The Quest For The Future

 

Travelling the city on team Mystic, searching for monsters using incense and lures. You will have your incubator handy for hatching Lucky Eggs and your Pokéballs ready for catching little creatures, hopefully rare ones too. You can stop in at art galleries, catch a quick cultural experience as you view the artworks, and collect your Pokémons at the same time. Then you can head to a designated training gym where you can battle a trainer, either from your own team or from a rival. All in all, it’s the makings of a pretty exciting day out.

In yet another unexpected twist from 2016, the 90s hit game Pokémon has made a massive comeback with their much upgraded phone app game – Pokémon Go. This game has literally taken the world by storm since its launch in early July 2016 and is set to take the phenomenon even further as it was officially launched in its home country of Japan this morning, Friday the 22nd of July. Already social media is filled with comments from delighted Japanese fans as they head into their cities on the Pokémon quest. The impact of Pokémon Go is undeniable, but the question of “how far can this take us” is still to be explored.

This game is unlike anything that has ever been seen before in the gaming world. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all – it’s not solely played by hardcore gamers. The audience ranges from children of all ages, to adults – also of all ages. Stories are travelling the Internet from people who, after discovering the game and loading it onto their phones, are heading out into their cities in search of little monsters. Along the way new friends are made, as days are spent hunting Jigglypuff and Charmander with complete strangers. Adults are essentially behaving like children on a playground, connecting through a mutually fun activity and not minding who they do it with. This is especially true for nineties children in a time that is particularly challenging for young adults. It offers an escape from reality with relatively good, clean fun as they are thrown back to their childhoods.

 

 

This marrying of the virtual and real world through the game has also broken the traditional set up of gaming. Instead of sitting in front of a computer screen for a forty-eight hour gaming marathon, people are going outside, travelling around and taking the game with them, using it in real spaces like art galleries and parks. For example, water monsters are found near water which is resulting in lakes, dams and rivers in cities being discovered. Museums and cultural heritage sites are seeing an increase in traffic, and many have even gotten in on the action by offering discounts for Pokémon Go players. At the same time new parts of the city are being discovered. Of course the down side is that people are entering private property and taking highly unnecessary risks in their quest for rare discoveries, but ultimately that comes down to user responsibility. Just because you can drive a car doesn’t mean that you can drive on the wrong side of the road. The upside is the opportunity to let go of inhibitions and discover one’s inner child. In a world where the modern day human is iconically portrayed staring at their smart phone and ignoring the world around them as technology and social media are largely blamed for anti-social behaviour, doors are being opened to a new way of connecting through these mediums.

 

 

The question that surrounds Pok√©mon Go is what does this mean for our future? It may seem like a strange idea, but when something takes the world by storm in the way that it has, it’s evident the concept has some real world-changing potential. We know that virtual reality and augmented reality are set to go big outside of their traditional entertainment spaces. We know already that in the near future we may be virtually seeing the doctor, and wearing life saving devices that will have medical care to our doors in an emergency. These are the realities of the next few decades on Earth.

The concept of a game like Pok√©mon Go has the potential to not only aid these medical advances, but to be an answer in itself. We have already seen it being used in hospitals to encourage patients to get out of bed and socialise. A hospital in Michigan released a video¬†showing how successfully this was being implemented with some of its patients who are able to walk around. Twitter is abuzz with reports of people suffering from anxiety and depression who are expressing how Pok√©mon Go has enabled them to leave the house and opened them up to socialising with fellow players. Pok√©mon Go is also a way to exercise without even knowing it. In a world plagued by chronic indoor sitting this is a huge bonus for any number of health issues, including mental health. It’s a working example of how gamification can change the health industry.

 

 

One mother posted on Facebook that she watched her autistic son engage with another child for the very first time after discovering Pokémon Go. A child who wouldn’t interact at all was cooing over another’s virtual Pokémon collection and happily running around the park with fellow hunters in search of his own. Pokémon Go was not designed as a treatment for these things, and so is not a substitute for professional health care, and we know it has its own dark side that has yet to be ironed out. However, what is important here is the potential. This form of technology could become so much more than a game. It is an opportunity to bring technology through the veil of separation and enable real human benefit in so many ways. If this potential is truly explored it could make a really interactive and beneficial learning tool for children in schools. The possibilities are endless in this realm. There are already obvious medical treatment possibilities with things like physical rehabilitation and socialising and psychological facets. The fact that it uses the Google Maps navigation system opens up an even further myriad of potential for interactive learning, growing and discovering.

Pokémon Go has only been out in the world for two weeks and already the impact is phenomenal. In that time it had reached over 30 million downloads, excluding Japan’s release. If that kind of reach and pull is possible with this game, imagine the possibilities for the future. I am excited to watch the designers and techies of the world take this concept to another level, as the Pokémon game draws us into a new age of gaming and technology.

 

 

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