Cheap Trick?

By Caleb Keith

Pokemon Go, a new smartphone game, has taken the world by storm in just a week. That’s because Pokemon Go was one of the most anticipated video games of 2016. Pokemon Go is inspired by Nintendo’s classic series of Pokemon games, which are turn-based strategy games involving the catching and training of various Pokemon creatures. The original games came out in 1993 and a new version has been released every one to two years since then. Pokemon Go puts a new twist on the classic games by implementing GPS and augmented reality technology using a smartphone.

The main objective of Pokemon Go is to capture and collect pokemon. Instead of using a controller to walk around a digital world to encounter these creatures, a player must walk around the actual world. Using a GPS and a map, Pokemon are scattered across neighborhoods, parks, streets, offices and anywhere else you can bring your phone. The idea is similar to geocaching but has not been part of a popular video game until now. While this creates a new level of activity in video games, it also adds an interesting level of danger. Pokemon go has already been the distraction behind several car accidents and its GPS checkpoints have been used by robbers to mug unsuspecting players. Pokemon Go’s creators also haven’t set any boundaries or dead zones meaning pokemon can pop up anywhere at any time including the Auschwitz holocaust museum.

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The GPS based collection system is joined with augmented reality or AR. AR aims to bring the digital world into the real world with the use of cameras to capture a real time environment, while overlaying digital elements using computer software. This may sound fancy but in reality it’s just a background change for whatever piece of software happens to be running on your computer or phone. In Pokemon Go this technology makes it seem like the various pokemon you chase down actually appear in the world around you. The problem with AR is that instead of bringing the digital world into the real world, the real world becomes the digital one. As you play Pokemon Go, reality fades into the background as the computer world takes over. This type of illusion is very different from traditional video games where the boundary between the game and the world is a glass screen.

Pokemon Go takes one of the best game franchises out there and neuters it by replacing a real story and objective with flashy smartphone technology. It is a gimmick, using technology that is naturally time consuming and addictive but is void of any real substance. Pokemon Go has been presented as a way to get kids outside and to make their wildest dreams come true by having their favorite pokemon come to life but in reality it’s just a cheap way for Nintendo to make money.