Pokémon GO floods social media as gamers dump their keyboards to hunt for cyber beasts

In 2014, as part of its traditional April Fool’s pranks, Google released a video in which Google Maps VP Brian McClendon announced a job opening for a Pokémon Master.

The video showed candidates travelling around the world, from the tallest mountains to the middle of the ocean in their search for the rarest creatures. Instead of pokéballs, they used their phones to capture them.

Google’s prank captured viewers imaginations and became a reality.

Fast forward two years and the video that started as a tongue-in-cheek prank became reality with the release of Pokémon GO, a free-to-play mobile game that enables players to capture Pokémon through the magic of augmented reality.

A new look for a classic game
The Pokémon franchise started in 1996 as titles for the Nintendo Game Boy and has since expanded into seven generations of successful games, films, toys, and trading cards.

In these games, players explore a fictional world capturing wild Pokémon – Po-c-ke-t Mon-sters with special powers – which they can use to battle and trade with other players.

The first generation of Pokémon games for the Game Boy.

Pokémon GO adapts many of the mechanics of its predecessors into a new medium. Similarly to previous games, players control an avatar and must find, capture and battle Pokémon.

But in the new game, the creatures are hiding in the real world around us and must be discovered by physically walking to specific spots in the city.

The game uses an augmented reality interface that overlays the 3D digital content of the game onto the phone’s camera feed. This way, the smartphone acts as a magic lens through which players can see their Pokémon as if they were in physical space.

Exciting features planned for the future include the capability to trade Pokémon with other players and the Pokémon GO Plus, a Bluetooth low-energy wearable device that notifies players when there are creatures nearby.

Capturing Pokémon in augmented reality.

Location, location, location
Similar games have been extensively studied in academic research. Technically, Pokémon GO is a type of Pervasive Game, lying at the intersection between location-based gaming and augmented reality gaming.

Pervasive games are those that blur the line between the physical world and the game world. Location-based games are aware of players’ geographical positions and adapt the gameplay to their context.

They often rely on technologies such as GPS and WiFi signals to pinpoint player’s location and combine this information with metadata about nearby services and landmarks.

Augmented reality games blend digital content into the real world, either with a projector (Microsoft’s RoomAlive turns any room into an augmented space) or by rendering graphics onto the video feed from a camera (PlayStation’s Wonderbook: Book of Spells creates a magical experience around a physical book).

Though games similar to Pokémon GO already existed with moderate success, only the power of a popular franchise like Pokémon could bring them into the mainstream.

The game was developed by Niantic, Inc., a Google spin-off with previous success in location-based mobile games and quickly skyrocketed to the top of the download charts.

Within a day of its release last week, the app topped iTunes charts and bumped up Nintendo’s share prices.

The game was initially launched only in Australia and New Zealand, following on to the United States, but eager players elsewhere have found workarounds for these location limitations.

Warning! Wild Pokémon in the area
As with any piece of software, the game did ship with its own technical issues, such as bugs, glitches and server connection problems, but these are likely to be solved as updates and patches are rolled out.

Other problems are inherent to the technologies it uses. Due to the long time the screen has to be on, combined with intense use of the camera, 3D rendering and GPS, a Pokémon hunt can quickly drain your phone’s battery.

But because it is an inherently social and outdoors game, it also presents a whole new category of problems. The game requires players to walk around while dividing their attention between the phone and their surroundings, so it increases the risk of injury.

Several features of the app are location-dependent, requiring players to be physically present at that location to trigger a game event. Whereas most of the time, this offers players an opportunity to explore and discover new spots in their cities, it also creates awkward situations.

A police station in Darwin was tagged as a PokéStop (a landmark where players can get resources to capture more Pokémon), causing officers to publish a warning on their Facebook page that it was not necessary to actually enter the building to obtain in-game benefits.

The way in which the game tags important locations has also caused problems for the unlucky owners of properties inadvertently designated as in-game “gyms”, causing players to trespass and loiter.

In its choice of city landmarks, the game’s algorithm often chooses delicate or inappropriate locations. We compiled the Tumblr page PokéMorbid with a series of examples, including war memorials and mausoleums tagged as “gyms”, and Pokémon suddenly appearing at funerals and hospitals.

Even more sinister events have been reported in the media. In Wyoming, a teenager playing the game stumbled upon a dead body floating in a river and in Missouri, armed robbers used the app to lure victims into a trap.

Games for the next generation
Despite the hiccups along the way, Pokémon GO has successfully brought pervasive gaming into the mainstream. Whereas it is unlikely that we will start seeing pervasive versions of every beloved game from our childhoods, this game really highlights the potential for this technology.

Upcoming augmented reality headsets such as the Microsoft Hololens have the potential to make such games even more immersive.

In the meantime, we can enjoy rediscovering our cities while we “catch’em all”. Just be careful not bump into tree as you try to capture that Pikachu.

Eduardo Velloso, Research Fellow, Microsoft Research Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces, University of Melbourne and Marcus Carter, SocialNUI Research Fellow, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Advertisting

Hlophe complaint is an eerie echo

But the new complaint against the Western Cape judge president is also unprecedented

Mabuza contract grows by R10m

Eskom’s negotiators in a R100-million maintenance contract came back with a proposal to push up the costs

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide
Advertising

Press Releases

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.