Everybody loves Pokémon, who does not? If you ask anybody on the street they can always name at least one Pokémon to you, no matter how old they are. The waves of Pokémon certanly asserted enormous impacts on generations after generations, building up to today a total of nearly 750 Pokémons. And now the wave rises once again, people talk about it all over the world, and Niantic has successfully targeted the right audiences with the first 150 Pokémons which were legendary at the time.

So what is Pokémon GO, how is it played and why is it such a phenomenon?

Pokemon’s forever motto is Gotta catch ’em all! so you basically know what to go right? Unlike the traditional Pokémon games played in Nintendo devices and emulators, the process of catching a Pokémon is much simpler in this 2016 release. Before, you need to fight a Pokemon until low HP and throw the Poke Ball, then level it up slowly through battles. At certain level your pet will evolve and new powers are unlocked. Now thanks to Augmented Reality (AR) Pokémons can be spotted anywhere, from public places like parks to your own bed, or even on your table while you’re eating! AR is truly the future of technology that anything can be captured regardless of topography, and thus the concept of space slowly ceases to exist in the digital age.

Pokémons are distributed based on their quality. For example you will be more likely to find a Magikarp near a river

The process of powering up your pet is slightly different in Pokémon GO. Each Pokémon has its own candy type and with a fee of some Stardust (which you gain by catching Pokémons) you can raise its Combat Power (CP). Candies can only be exchanged via ‘sacrificing’ your Pokemon to the Professor, for this reason people are encouraged to catch as many Pokémons of the same types as possible in order to gain candies; enough candies will allow Pokémons to evolve. And then there is the Gym thingy that you beat other trainers to become the gym owners and stay there as long as you can (generating extra bonuses) before someone else with a stronger Pokemon knocks you off. The aim of the game is, I guess, to be the greatest Pocket Monster Master owning a full Pokédex along with claiming wider gym territories across the globe.

The most reasonable justification for Pokémon GO’s success, in my opinion, is the nostalgia. There is a generation which was extremely enthusiastic about collecting all Pokémon figurines (not to mention Pokémon cards) and created virtual battles between these Pokémon toys to determine who is stronger — what me and my brother, and other kids did for our childhoods. Surprisingly, there is hardly any dispute on one’s favourite Pokémon — one seems to find a Pokémon that connects to the individual the most, almost from first impression. Charmander and Bulbasaur, these options never changed no matter how many years had passed since I and my brother first picked our guardians.

Initially it was perceived that the starting Pokémon would give people headache on picking their buddy; but the interest shifted from this to undecidedly picking the suitable Gym team — all happened within merely a week…


Charmander/Bulbasaur/Squirtle versus this - which dilemma is greater?

Just when the game was first released, people went crazy about how cool the technology was and how Niantic flooded them with childhood memories. A few days later, catching a Pikachu became an achievement that everybody wanted. Then, hints and tips of how to catch Pikachu were spread. Some actually sat down and did tons of research on how to maximise Stardust, how to catch rare Pokémon and even how to throw a Poké Ball with style to catch difficult Pokémons (the ones with orange diminishing circles when you try to catch). Needless to say, tips are exchanged more often between friends, peers and colleagues than websites. People are excited to show their screenshots of rare Pokémons that they randomly encounter on the street, or a legendary MewTwo which took them hours of probably trespassing prohibited areas — this is all converted into pride and honour. Thus it is of great interest to say that this kind of healthy competitions can actually bring people closer. The game encourages you to walk out and interact with strangers, and AR — which bridges the gap between the digital and real world — becomes the tool to assist conversations. We can share to others about our experiences of catching certain Pokémons or exchange tips on catching rarer species. This fun way of social interaction may prove effective for people who always stay indoor or those who may struggle being around people. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact some individuals due to greediness might do harmful things to the innocents. We all heard news about people gathering around lured areas with concentrated Pokémons and some took this opportunity to rob or stole others’ phone with rare Pokémons and sold with unbelievable prices.

Just a few steps from where I live

On the other side of the coin, AR helps us discover our neighbourhood via locations identified by GPS. There are secret corners or building names that we pass through numerous time a day yet never bother a glance; Pokéstops all make us aware now. Moreover, there is theadrenaline kick that pushes people’s limits to bravely reach dangerous places just to capture a rare Pokémon. Or to appreciate nature’s beauty when you get lost while searching for Pokémons (well can you actually get lost when the map is in your hand?!). You can enjoy all the good things Pokemon GO brings to you as long as you take care of yourself — don’t be fool to yourself by falling into a pond or causing accidents while crossing the street because you are trying so hard at throwing Poké Balls into a Drowzee!

Despite being unknowingly sure how long the phenomenon is lasting, this surely is a prominent leap in technology in the sense that people are made more aware of how the advancement progresses. On the one hand, the majority are pleased for the technology’s capability to reach the stage which allows numerous opportunities for creativity. On the other hand, we are getting more and more dependent on technology — we are so engaged in hatching and nurturing it (just like how you would take care a Pokémon) and we get more attached. We need to witness every single step of this ever-growing baby and thus we cannot keep our eyes out for it at any second. Imagine your phone’s battery is low because of hours of egg-hatching walks and there is an emergency call regarding your job or family; then would you blame yourself or on technology if something unexpected happens? We humans create technology ourselves, and now we are gradually becoming enslaved of what we created. We need to utilise technology for the right purpose so that it can effectively perform tasks which save us hours of manual work, yet at the same time we are still in control of what we are doing ourselves.

Mom says I should go outside and play

The main reason I play Pokémon GO is that it keeps me walking (in order to hatch the eggs). Distance tracing is an excellent feature in smartphones to encourage people to exercise and walk more steps every day. Yet I would be much appreciated if in the next update they can trace the distance walked while the app and/or GPS is off, this game is killing my phone battery!

So, what do you learn from Pokemon GO?

Published by Quang Nguyen