Demand for Pokémon Go has been unprecedented. The phenomenal success of the mobile augmented reality game has led to server crashes and a delayed roll out for the UK. But where there’s a will there’s a way!
Hype for Pokémon Go has been as equally phenomenal as it has debilitating. The success of the game has seen unprecedented numbers of downloads since hitting app stores in Japan, the U.S, Australia and New Zealand that resulted in servers crashing under sheer weight of numbers which has attracted criticism from media outlets like Forbes, not so much for the game itself, but the logistical mess upon launch.
As servers melted down under the pressure of more than 50,000 downloads in the first 24 hours, gamers became frustrated globally. Those in regions where the game is available were unable to play, the rest of us looked on in envy, especially when news rolled in that the launch of the app in other parts of the world would be delayed until stability could be ensured.
Thank you for your patience. We have been working to fix the server issues. We will continue rolling out #PokemonGO to new countries soon.
— Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp) July 8, 2016
Fortunately, with a simple interweb search, workarounds are readily available that allow gamers in the U.K (and most likely other regions too) to gain access to Pokémon Go early. It’ll take five to ten minutes of your time and a little googling for a genuine address and phone number in the U.S. or Australia for the iOS hack, but it’s most certainly worth taking the time to do so.
I have never been a fan of Pokémon, I remember the cartoon hitting U.K. screens but I was just that little bit too old for it to grip me. But as the hype surrounding Pokémon Go started to flood my Facebook timeline it became very apparent that the app could have some very positive uses.
If, like me, you’re a parent you’ll most likely be familiar with the reluctance of kids to leave the house. It’s a daily struggle. Yet, almost without exception, it rings true that once they feel the sun on their face, the breeze in their hair and the ground beneath their feet it’s almost as tough to get them home again. And once you actually drag them from the playground or park they drop anchor – “My legs are hurting…” sigh. And this is where Pokémon Go comes into play.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. What is Pokémon Go? From Niantic Inc and Nintendo, this clever augmented reality app, in simple terms, takes a visually simplified version of Google Maps, places your avatar on it and allows you to walk around searching for Pokémon to catch. You’ll be alerted to their whereabouts by a vibration and you’ll see their position on the map. Move to within range and tap on the little critter and you’ll see the real world through the lens of your camera with the Pokémon immersed into the scene. You flip a Poké Ball at your target to catch it.
Landmarks on the map become features of the game too. My local church, for instance, is a Poké Stop, somewhere – once you’re in range – you can pick up supplies and bonuses. Other landmarks are Pokémon Gyms where you can pit your Pokémon against others in battle.
The gameplay isn’t the most impressive feature of Pokémon Go, really. It’s more to do with the chase, the discovery and excitement of catching Pokémon, all presented in a very simple user interface. It’s incredibly addictive with dozens of different characters to collect, train and evolve. And it’s these attributes that work really well with the kids.
The game is simple to pick up and play and in no time my six and eight year old girls were navigating the various menus. When a Pokémon spawned on our street it proved a compelling incentive to get out of the house, no arguments, no bargaining, they were out the door pronto. We bagged a Bulbasaur with beginners luck and were reeling in common Rattata and Pidgeys in no time.
Walking through our local cemetery and adjoining park the girls whooped with excitement as another blip appeared on the screen and we chased down another critter to catch. The climbing frame is a Poké Stop and the clock tower is a gym where we can sit on the grass and pit Pokémon against others. It’s all very clever stuff.
In all we walked, with a pit-stop at the play park, for a good couple of hours – much more than would usually be acceptable to these city living girls – making a healthy deposit in our Pokédex and getting some healthy exercise at the same time. Best of all, not a single complaint of tired legs, just enthusiasm for the hunt.
So, plenty of positives, but why is it dangerous? For the various reasons of differing importance listed below.
Firstly there’s the actual physical danger, particularly for younger players. Naturally I accompany my children whilst using Pokémon Go, but on several occasions it was startlingly clear that they were more fixated on the screen than their surroundings, particularly when crossing roads and cycleways. For older kids it could prove a deadly distraction at worst and accidents are just waiting to happen. Spates of trips and falls have already been reported with kids staring at the screen instead of where they are going.
Secondly Pokémon don’t always spawn in easily accessible places and have even led to some unexpected discoveries, as nineteen year old Shayla Wiggins, from Wyoming found out when she stumbled upon a dead body whilst playing the game. Apart from this exceptional case, the temptation to wander into areas that are unsafe or restricted could prove too much for some.
Then there’s the cost, to get the most from the game you’ll need to venture beyond easily accessible wifi hotspots, and Pokémon Go whips through your data plan like a hot knife through butter. If you don’t have unlimited data you could find yourself paying out for additional gigabytes. We’re nerds, we’re compulsive and liable to the pitfalls of addictive gameplay.
Finally, and not so much a danger as an inconvenience, Pokémon Go will drain your battery fast. Reports suggest an iPhone battery can be completely depleted with just three hours of gameplay. There are ways to prolong your battery life by dimming the screen contrast and force closing battery sapping apps running in the background. Make sure your wifi is turned off whilst out of range of a network too! Your phone will keep searching for available networks the whole time you’re not connected thus draining your power supply. There are settings within the app as well. Turn off the sound and music and try the battery saver mode, though for me I found the app kept crashing when I used it. Cheap power cells are readily available that will increase your gameplay time.
Pokémon Go may not be the best Pokémon game out there, but it is the best augmented reality game available right now. Its appeal spans age groups and for me personally it’s become something my children and I can bond over that merges exercise and technology with just about the right balance.
Lots of fun, highly addictive.