Pop Culture

Pokémon Go Makes Alternate Reality Games Interesting Again

Photo by Eduardo Woo

One Pokémon Go Gym-Owner's musings on Twitter and his replies bring up interesting questions about the consequences of a popular alternate reality game for the real world.

All this starts with Twitter user @boonerang (whose domicile has recently been beset by Pokémon Go players) tweeting:

But his musings start to get real pretty quickly…

His house, apparently, was a church 40 years ago, and the game sees his place as a legitimate space to send its players to, at all hours. Developed by Niantic, the mobile game uses Bluetooth to notify users when a virtual cartoon animal is nearby, extending the Japanese brand into the real world through augmented reality. Certain locations in physical space serve as “gyms” where players can train their slave-creatures to fight each other in a mindless quest to accrue more and more meaningless points. Actual dollars factor in when you want special bonuses in game, which is how this freemium app is beating all its competition on Apple’s App Store right now.

I wonder if this game would even be relevant if not for the Pokémon brand? The answer is that it would not be. ARGs have been around for years, and games like these are nothing new. But kidnapping animals has never been more popular than in the Pokémon franchise, and now players will get a little sunshine as they exit their lightless caves to explore the real world. Soon, Niantic CEO John Hanke will offer a paid Plus version of the game, where you can don a wearable device that allows you to walk around without looking at your phone. Let’s hope this device is a helmet of some sort, so that when the kids are struck by all manner of vehicles as they wander into traffic, they have a better chance of real-world survival.

Who knew this stupid game would take us to these strange new worlds? Here I thought No Man’s Sky would be the game to change everything as far as paradigms in gaming is concerned, but fact is once again stranger than fiction.

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