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Pokémon GO

It's been ten days since my last post now. Naturally, that means my parents have been pestering me to warm up my typing fingers and put out a new blog post. Firstly, we've crossed 20,000 views on the blog! Yaaaay! A huge thank you to everyone who read and shared the blog. Anyway, on to the blog.

A few weeks ago, a once-famous, now largely forgotten company called Nintendo came out with a game called Pokemon GO. It teamed up with Niantic, a company which made a huge splash a few years ago with an augmented reality game called Ingress. Pokemon, for all you poor, deprived folk who never played on a GameBoy Advanced or DS, is a game where you capture various creatures, train them into terrifying monsters and use them to beat other creatures up until they faint. No, it didn't make me violent! And I'll punch you until you pass out if you say it did!

Since 1996, Nintendo has been picking up the same series and rehashing it over and over, adding new pokemon and new rivals. The mechanics of the game haven't changed very much, though, and what was a pretty big deal back in 1996 had pretty much collapsed. After all, however many cartoon series, comic books, card games, movies and video games you may put out, there's only so much satisfaction you can gain from sitting inside and having your pokemon repeatedly attack other pokemon. By 2014, when the last set of games came out, people were pretty much sick of Nintendo flogging the same dead horse, and by most accounts, Pokemon, along with Nintendo itself, were on their way out.

Earlier this month, though, Pokemon GO came out and changed all of that. While Nintendo probably didn't write a huge amount of the code behind the game, it's still deeply involved with the Pokemon franchise on account of it owns it. When Pokemon GO came out, Nintendo was a dying company. Since its release, Nintendo's market value has gone up by over $7 billion. The app has topped Apple's free app list, unseating giants like Snapchat, Instagram and Tinder. 

Pokemon GO uses the data from Niantic's old game, Ingress - another game where you had to move around in real life to complete objectives in the game. It uses your location and tells you what pokemon are nearby. If you get close enough to a pokemon, you can attempt to catch it. And here's the really cool part - the game will use your phone's camera and show you the pokemon on the ground in front of you! You also have to walk to get to gyms, where you can train your pokemon, and to pokestops, where you get items that you can use to catch and battle pokemon.

I think a large part of Pokemon GO's appeal is its nostalgia value. A lot of people grew up playing one generation or the other of the pokemon games. Many people, myself included, may hypothetically play the games illegally on emulators on their PCs. Pokemon GO came out and took a great many people under thirty back to their childhood days in a way they probably didn't think was possible. After all, they couldn't exactly shell out the money to buy a 3DS just to play Pokemon Alpha Omega, could they?

Another big thing Pokemon GO has going for it (see what I did there?) is that the hardware it runs on is so much more accessible. In general, games which are released on both PC and consoles sell more copies on the PC than on consoles. Largely, that's because a lot of teenagers can't really afford consoles, but everyone has a PC. The same goes for Pokemon GO - very few people have 3DSes, but a great many people have a smartphone. Pokemon GO's success shows just how well Nintendo could do if they brought some of their other franchises to more generic platforms.

The game has also received a lot of flak since its release because people are looking at their smartphones instead of the road while walking or driving. People have been run over and involved in serious accidents because they were playing Pokemon GO. They've also been going into places like police stations just because they found a rare pokemon hiding inside. While those are major problems, people do need to concentrate on where they are in the real world more than where they are in a video game. Letting people who can't look both ways before crossing the street play pokemon is equivalent to giving a two-year-old a handgun.

There have also been a lot of upsides to the game. People who haven't been out and about in several years are now going out into the wide world - if only to catch pokemon - and getting healthier because they're being forced to walk. It's also combating issues like social anxiety, because people are going out and finding other people who are playing the game, people who just want to hang out and play together.

All in all, I reckon Pokemon GO's both a gift and a curse. It's a fantastic game, and it's doing no end of good for a lot of people. There are also people who are getting into trouble because of it, but I think that's the way it is with any invention - there's the good and there's the bad. Either way, the technology is fantastic, and I think it's a great idea overall. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I saw a squirtle down the road, and I really want to go and catch it.


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