When I first heard that The Pokemon Company and Niantic were teaming up to make a Pokemon game I was super duper stoked. Niantic, formerly Niantic Labs, is a company owned by Google and to be honest I quite like Google and their products. I also had previously checked out their other augmented reality game called Ingress. It was fun enough, but it just never got a huge following.
I had always had some interest in the Pokemon games, but never owning a platform they ran on and not willing to shell out the money for one game/system I never got into it. When I saw the first Pokemon Go trailer I was really excited and thought, “Oh wow this is my way in. That would be so cool to go around fighting Pokemon and going to gyms.” Man I had a much different game in my head. I thought they’d use the base from Ingress, which I guess they did, but I thought it would be more like the real Pokemon games. Wouldn’t it be super cool to start out walk around, run into Pokemon and you actually had to fight them like in the games, then be able to challenge passing players or go to gyms and fight?
Now I’m going to go on to rag a bit on the game, but fear not this isn’t just all doom and gloom. I don’t hate the game, I’m just going to explain how I thought it could be better and disappointed me a little in my expectations.
As I delved into the world of Pokemon Go I realized more or less that it was a re-skinning of Ingress to a more popular property. Like Ingress you start out at the bottom, in Ingress you walk around collecting energy (XM) and hacking portals. The world is divided up into two teams and you work together to conquer portals, connect them and cover large areas. Sounds kind of familiar? So Pokemon Go turns the portals, using the same data from Ingress, into gyms and Pokestops. You collect items from the Pokestops just like you would hacking a portal in Ingress. In Ingress you collect resonators and other items to control the portals, in Pokemon Go you collect Pokemon to control the Pokestops.
So as you can see I was a bit miffed to find out I was just going to play a game I already played just with a different look.
What I did like is how many people were playing. It was kind of fun. My siblings all piled on when I’m usually the only one playing games. I will say I did like the little club of Ingress too. You’d be sitting at a light transit station and you see someone attacking your portal or defending the portal your attacking. Since it wasn’t a super duper popular game and people are always on the phone you could look around at everyone else there and you’d have no idea who that other person was, yet you were weirdly connected to each other.
I also like collecting. I collect like crazy in games if I can. I’m still working on my mount collection in WoW. It is Pokemon after all, that’s the whole point, you gotta “Catch’em all!”. That first day after a long awaited release in Canada I was delighted to go outside and see all these silhouettes on the little tracker. I mean the “Who’s that Pokemon” from the show prepared me for this day! I wandered around my small town suburbs. Of course there was only one Pokestop, at the water park of all phone unfriendly places, but other than that I actually always had a full tracker and caught a good amount. I was pretty upset when over time the amount, variance and tracking of Pokemon seemed to decrease or go away entirely. I will saw it has gotten slightly better and they are working on it. I guess that is also the problem of living in a small town. I thought at first that it wouldn’t be so location based. I had images of us out camping and hiking to find a onyx nestled in the rocks or something. That would have been amazing! Ingress on the other hand, while maybe a little less exciting out of the city, was far less effected by location.
I did enjoy the activity though. Thankfully it came out when it was still warm enough here to be outside. I walked or biked all over my town. I like walking and biking in general, but if I can do it for a reason, other than fitness of course, then all the better! This game really lends itself to people who travel. My brother, the pilot, or my brother-in-law, the importer/exporter, have a dandy of a time. Walking like crazy visiting places all over the world. Man, their Pokemon library is way better than mine.
I also want to address Pokestops as memorials or other sensitive areas. When articles started popping up about how outrageous this was that Pokestops were memorials, grave sites and another such locations I thought it was rather an odd thing to get worked up about. All these locations were portals and are portals in another game. The only reason they didn’t know is because Ingress just wasn’t as popular. Yes I will say that there were and are Pokemon Go players that don’t respect locations or push boundaries, however all these places are public areas. All the Ingress locations, and you could submit new ones, had to be publicly accessible 24/7 and be some sort of landmark or interesting thing. That’s why memorials, art installation and the like are Pokestops or portals. Players do not have to physically interact with any of them in any way. Most of the time the GPS on your phone doesn’t even need you to be that close to it. You can be across the street and be able to interact in game with it. From anyone playing the game as a normal human being there would be no harm done to any location. I actually liked this feature. It got you out to explore interesting parts of your area that you may have never known about.
Overall I enjoyed playing Pokemon Go, but I have definitely fallen off the bus a bit. I mean I can only catch so many birds, worms and rats before I get tired of it. I think it could have been a better game, staying more true to it’s origins. If or when the tracker comes back I’m sure I’ll be ready for round two. After all there is nothing more frustrating than seeing that little silhouette on your tracker and having no way to find it other than walking around for a couple hours hoping your going in the right direction.