• The Pokemon Go effect


    To ‘Catch ’em All’ has been the dream of every kid who’s ever picked up a Pokemon game, and with the announcement of Pokemon Go that dream seemed to be closer than ever, touting the ability to catch Pokemon, trading with and battle other trainers, and even participate in events where players could catch a legendary Pokemon. But alas, with the release of Pokemon Go in the United States earlier this month, all those promises seemed like just that, promises. At the time of writing, you can’t trade with another player, battle another trainer outside of a gym, or catch any real Pokemon.

    There have also been quite a few problems with the current build of the game. With the reported ‘Three-Steps’ glitch, problematic GPS, game freezes, battery drain, and server downtime, this game should in theory be the worst Pokemon game released so far. However, despite the amount of bug reports, and hours upon hours of server downtime, Pokemon Go rose to the top of the Apple and Android app stores here the US in record time, topping both the Free Apps and Top Grossing Apps lists. People have also been using it more on a daily basis than apps like Tinder and, soon, Twitter. The app is also making headlines by taking the internet by storm, with memes emerging, and news outlets rushing to cover the latest craze to sweep across the interwebs.

    As broken as the game is at the moment, I believe Pokemon Go is one of the best games out there at the moment, and it’s not because of the game itself but of what it has managed to achieve. Pokemon Go has managed to build communities, not the just the ones on Facebook, or Reddit, but physical communities where people interacted with one another face-to-face.

    Take for example, my walk around the town of Redmond, Washington last weekend. As I walked around looking for Pokemon catch, and Pokestops to restock on essentials like Pokeballs, and Potions. I came across a Pokestop at a park, where someone had activated a lure module to attract more Pokemon to the area. Here, I expected to find a sole trainer sitting on a park bench waiting for a Pokemon to show up. However, what I saw was a handful of trainers gathered together chatting about their recent acquisitions, the kinds of Pokemon that were available in the area, and notifying one another when a Pokemon had appeared within range. And as time went on, more trainers converged on the Pokestop, and it was soon a bustling hub of trainers. After a while I decided to leave the park to look for more kinds of Pokemon and while crossing the street, I came across a family who were out for a drive. After letting me cross, the father called out to me, telling me that there was a cluster of rare Pokemon about a mile from where I was, and the location of a few Pokestops nearby. Soon I realized that these were not isolated incidents, as the days wore on, I met more and more trainers who were eager to share information and stories about their experiences. In my opinion, this game as glitchy and broken as it was has managed to do something many games have tried to and failed to achieve. The ability to pull gamers out of their houses, and bring complete strangers together regardless of race, nationalities, language, or religion.

    As people across the United States, Australia, New Zealand and much of Europe jump aboard the hype train to ‘PokeVille’ many Asian counties have been shut out of the servers, owing to the hours of server downtime. While many players feel left out and disappointed by Niantic’s decision to slowdown the rollout in view of bolstering their servers in the hopes of not suffering even more server downtime, I urge these players to remain patient as the Pokemon GO experience is one that is truly worth the wait. And to those who have the game and are playing it, do as the game reminds us constantly and be aware of your surroundings, do not end up in an accident trying to catch a Pikachu on the other side of the street.