You probably have to be living under a rock to have not heard of the new mobile game Pokémon Go. It just came out and exploded in popularity. It seems like it is constantly in the news, but mostly for all the wrong reasons.
I am a player, as is my husband. My husband was actually a beta tester as well. For many people, this type of real time augmented reality game is all new, but we are well familiar with it. Niantic, Pokémon Go’s game developer, released another game in 2012 called Ingress. Dave and I got our invites to play Spring 2013, before the game was publicly available, and have been playing ever since.
A little back ground for those not familiar. In Ingress there are two teams, referred to as factions. When you first join you can join the Resistance (Blue) or the Enlightened (Green). (Team Resistance FTW!)
In the game, you visit portals, which are actual locations in the real world. At these portals you can do several things. Hack- when you hack a portal you may receive items such as bursters, resonators, shields, link amps, heat sinks, muli-hacks, turrets, power cubes, portal keys, etc.
If the portal is grey, which means it is unclaimed by either team, you can capture it with resonators that you get from hacking. If it is an enemy portal, you can attack it with bursters to defeat in and claim it for your team. There are different levels for bursters and resonators, and it requires 8 people to create a level 8 portal, which is the highest level a portal can be.
You can arm the portal with shields and turrets to make them harder to defeat. Heat sinks and multi-hacks make it so you can hack the portal more often. When your team owns the portal, you can link it with other friendly portals as long as there is not another link intersecting it (friendly or enemy). Connect 3 portals in a triangle shape and you make a control field.
There is a lot more to it than that, but that is the basics. There is a whole in-depth story that goes along with the game as well. One of the huge things about Ingress is community. A lot of the active community is on Google+, where you will find countless groups for Ingress players around the world.
There are events held. Some are Niantic organized, like Anomalies, which are events in large cities where players battle to control portals, link, and make fields. My husband and I were able attend two anomalies; 13Magnus in Dallas, Tx and Recursion in Austin, Tx. There also community organized events, like farms, First Saturdays, etc. Groups have organized large fields that stretch over thousands of miles as well as field art. The communities have banded together to help players in need as well as mourn one of Ingress’ community managers.
Those who have played both games with find their basic structure very similar. In Ingress, you can earn badges. One of the badges was for portal submissions. There were a few portals automatically generated when the game first started, like fire stations, libraries, churches, and sponsored locations. From there, everything else was user generated. A portal was generally a place/thing of interest: sculptures, murals, historical markers, unique locations, etc. Because there was a badge you could earn for portals approved, the game was flooded by submissions, both valid locations and not. Eventually they stopped accepting portal submissions, but some locations ended up with a huge amount of approved portals.
Enter Pokémon Go. Niantic used the portals from Ingress (but not all of them since there were a massive amount), to form what we knows as Poké Stops and Poké Gyms. That is why some people have a lot of them near them and others don’t. That is why there are Poké Stops in graveyards and other random places- some Ingress player saw a statue or monument and submitted it to become a portal.
When I was playing Ingress I did not know many people that even knew about the game, let alone played it. My husband really got involved in the Ingress communities and we met many people through the game. We got out of the house and discovered new places playing Ingress. We went to meetups to socialize and hack portals. There were some bad apples, but it was mostly positive experience. Now that Pokémon Go has released, it has amazed me the reach of this game. I have known about it for awhile, and I got to see my husband play before the release. I never imagined that so many of my friends would be playing it, which is awesome. Being part of the Ingress community, I know the potential Pokémon Go has to form a successful gaming community.
What has disappointed me is with the popularity has come the backlash, which I guess is to be expected. In the news are stories of people being robbed, players walking off cliffs, car accidents. All I can say about that is use common sense! The game is 24/7, but that doesn’t mean it is the best idea to go out at 3am by yourself to catch Pokémon. No Squirtle is worth stepping out into traffic for. Just because there is a Pikachu in someone’s backyard doesn’t mean you can trespass to capture it. It really is all common sense. I also know that there are a lot of kids playing this game, and that means that parents need to be supervising and teaching them to pay attention to their surroundings and respect other people’s property.
I keep seeing memes about how “I’m an adult so I have better things to do than play Pokémon,” and it’s kind of sad to me. I understand if you are not interested in Pokémon. Honestly, I know nothing about it save for what I have learned recently. Different strokes for different folks. That being said, what is wrong with being an adult and playing Pokémon Go? I’m not talking about neglecting your responsibilities (job, kids, bills, etc etc) to play, but playing it in your free time. It gets people off of the couch and into their communities. It brings people together for meetups. Maybe people will get more exercise walking around to catch Pokémon and visit Poké Stops.
Just a few days ago my husband, kids, and I attended a meetup put together on social media. Hundreds of people came with little notice. There were people of all ages there playing. Some, like me, had their kids with them. People were having fun. I don’t see that as a bad thing. I think it’s a great thing. Hopefully more of the future news stories will be about the good this game has brought about and less about the bad.