This Little Pika Went to the Gym

Introduction

Well, a day of substitute teaching and the college championship game were enough to distract me from posting anything to either page yesterday.  Therefore, I have to be extra dilligent about making sure that I start my daily posts again today.  I realize that I won’t be able to update the page daily when I go back to work in a week and a half.  However, if I make that the goal now, when I am teaching again, 2-3 updates per week wont’ feel so cumbersome.

I’ve done a couple of articles about Pokemon Go in the past.  Like most other pages, I wrote about the improbable, unbelievable, and almost inexplicable initial success and then the inevitable crash of the game.  Since then, I have played the game on a semi-regular basis.  Quinn wanted to do his little kid podcast about Pokemon this week, so I thought this is as good a time as any to revisit the game.

The Good

When the game first released, there were words upon words to create paragraphs and pages (if pages still existed in their traditional form in our digital world) about the exercise benefits of the game.  It inspired people to get out into the outside world by leading them to new or possibly previously unexplored places.  Gyms gave important items like potions and eggs.  In order to hatch the eggs, you needed to walk 2, 5, or 10k.

The phenomenon was so ubiquitous that it married an established meme and had little meme babies.

Any time you went to a new place, you opened up the app to see what new types of Pokemon might be available in that area.  We went to the beach and I remember being excited when I saw and caught my first Staryu.  After the beach, we went to a restaurant and Quinn and I had way too much fun taking pictures of Pokemon on our food plates.  Just as unlikely as getting people to go outside and exercise, Pokemon Go got them to interact socially.

In addition to taking those pictures and posting them online, you could always recognize another Pokemon Go player.  I know that we aren’t supposed to stereotype, but anytime you saw someone who was just a bit too pale for the time of year and they were looking at their phone, there was a good chance that they were playing Pokemon Go.  At the beginning, all you could do was tip your hoodie to them, trade war stories, and maybe contact information depending on how brave you felt.  Niantic promised other ways to interact, but they were slow in implementing them.

It doesn’t make it any better, but this is always the reaction to new and interesting things. “Wow, this thing is very interesting! You should check it out!” *later* “God, I liked this thing so much better when there weren’t so many people interested in it.”

One of the ways that have finally been brought into the game that have allowed people to get together and be social is raids.  The only experience I have with raids is that it looked like one was going on during our trip to the aquarium in Woods Hole, someone posted something on Facebook about one happening in town in an attempt to get a group (but it never happened) and I foolishly tried to solo one that was happening down the street.  I didn’t get a chance to try the raid while on the Cape for a couple of reasons, but I wish I had just taken the time to check it out.  Living in a small town without many tech or gaming savvy people strikes again as I haven’t gotten an opportunity like that since.

The Bad

Because of the community aspect of raiding, as I just mentioned, I don’t get any chances to experience what is now a fundamental part of the game.  As a result, I’m stuck playing the game as it was released.  Walking down the street to the local Wal*Mart, I keep an eye out for Pokemon and hope that 10k egg hatches into something interesting or fun.  Look, I’m not one to needless complain about something and I hope that’s not what this sounds like.  I mean, I am complaining (and it may be needless because there are ways to combat the isolation), but I also think I have a valid point.

Okay, okay. I get the point. At least I’ll hatch a ton of eggs.

Because, other than the raids, there aren’t a ton of new features.  I think I saw something about weather effects determining Pokemon spawns and there are new Pokemon, which I said earlier is one of the most fun parts of the game (and in fact the reason that the games exists), but some of the most anticipated features have not been included in the game.  There are no trainer battles.  There is no trading of Pokemon.  Those, too, are integral to the games and need to be a part of this game for it to ever be considered in the same league as the other games.

The Ugly

I did an article about Mario Run before Thanksgiving.  That is another Nintendo property that has made the move to mobile.  I enjoy that game quite a bit and a major reason why is that Nintendo hasn’t given into the real money pressure that mobile puts on developers.  Most mobile games give you the full game, but to get the full experience, players quickly realize that they have to pay real money for items or experience.  Mario Run has none of that and it is a refreshing oasis in the salty sea of P2E (Pay to Exist) of the rest of the mobile gaming library.

I was careful earlier to call Mario Run a Nintendo property.  Nintendo owns that one and they developed the game.  However, Pokemon Go is a Nintendo property, but Niantic has made the actual game.  That was important in the article that I wrote about Pokemon Go user base crashing once people realized just how limited the game was and it was even worse than now.  I said then that the game felt like a beta test that somehow made it to release.  That’s not the ugly anymore.  The game still feels unfinished, but it’s getting better.

My main complaint about the game is that Niantic has embraced the real money trend that I dislike so much.  They aren’t pushing it as much as other games.  It isn’t necessary to buy things to advance in the game.  However, I have noticed that when I logged in a few times or checked out the webpage or social media for the game, they’ve been testing the waters a bit with taking that route.

99 cents to win the game? What is the objective of the game? To remove the ads?

The Verdict

Look, I get that game companies need to make money.  I also get that this is the environment that mobile games have grown up in and that it is harder to get people to pay money up front for games that are so simple that they can fit on your phone.  However, phones are getting more powerful and some of the games are more interesting and have as good or better gameplay than their console counterparts.  It only takes one success before others start to attempt to mimic that success.  If Pokemon Go can just resist the P2W siren song and start to build back up its user base, maybe it can lead to a new era in mobile gaming.

That’s certainly not going to happen if they don’t implement those features that are missing.  Since the early announcement that they were thinking/considering/dreaming of possibly thinking about maybe putting together a committee that might introduce trading and trainer battles to the game I have not heard any more discussion along those lines.  It’s probably tough to make them happen, but it would be nice to get an update about the possible update.  Oh well, I will just continue to try to find funny pictures to post on our Instagram and get excited every time that new Pokemon type pops up on the screen when I open the app.

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