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Individual Values: A Pokémon Feature - Week 37: Going Places


Jonathan Higgins

Welcome to the thirty-seventh week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed the last one, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday.

 

 

 

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Going Places

 

 

I was ready for it to be another slow week in the world of Pokémon. With Super Mario Maker releasing today in the west/already out in Japan, and Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon headed their way next week...kinda figured we“d not get any major announcements until the end of the month. ...Hoo boy, was I wrong. I was nestled in bed yesterday evening, and I happened to check Twitter and see that a Pokémon Press Conference was happening. I was restless, so I stayed up and saw Pokémon GO revealed to the world.

 

I“ve always felt creating a “Pokémon MMO”, like what so many want, would be an impossible endeavor. Perhaps talking about this new announcement at length will eventually beget an explanation as to why I feel this way--look for that soon! At any rate: The Pokémon Company and new partners Niantic, Inc. are effectively trying a different massively mutliplayer approach to break down the fourth wall.

 

Millions of people will download the app, no doubt, and begin a quest to “catch ”em all” in the real world. Every type of Pokémon player across the globe -- young kids, young adults, and full grown folk like me -- will need to interact with one another in person, if they want to battle and trade the Pokémon they“ve caught. Everyone who plays this game will become a “real life” Pokémon Trainer.

 

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There are three ways that people reacted to this news. I“ll dismiss the first of these -- the “RIP FOREVER Pokémon THE MAIN GAMES ARE DEAD & WE“RE MOVING TO MOBILE” school of thought -- right away. Many reactions I saw last night were truly reaching, in this respect. We already have a confirmation that the

will be revealed in next month“s CoroCoro. I suspect we“ll see the Pokémon Z-related announcement everyone“s been waiting for around that time.

 

Even if Pokémon GO interacts with the main games and allows folks to transfer Pokémon they“ve caught on their phones to their respective Nintendo games, it“s best to treat the iOS and Android game as what it is -- an ambitious spin-off. If the game is met with wild success, it could ignite further integration into the main games over time, but: Nintendo and the Pokémon Company will never abandon their major-market handheld devices like the Nintendo 3DS (and possibly the NX going forward -- who knows?) in favor of smartphones.

 

Optimism, and even excitement, are two perfectly understandable reactions to this news. Longtime fans of the series no doubt dreamt of a world where Pokémon were “real”. Augmented reality is about as real as it gets. Your quest to become a Pokémon Master will stretch as far as you do. Just the fact that this game exists could get people of all ages outside, actually exploring the world around them, hanging around places they normally wouldn“t.

 

I recall Ingress, also by Niantic, Inc., inspiring my friends who played it to stretch their physical boundaries. We didn“t get a ton of information during the half hour-ish conference, but we got enough for people to go wild with possibilities and... their conjectures may not be too far off. Hopefully the confirmed micro-transactions will be painless and fair, like Pokémon Rumble World. If Pokémon GO leaves you elated/excited for the possibilities of what“s to come, I“m certainly all the more happy for you.

 

Unfortunately, I“m in the opposite camp. I“m not going to spend too much time deconstructing the concept of Pokémon GO, because I“m really not a fan of raining on people“s parades. Even if I don“t like the idea or something doesn“t necessarily sit well with me about it, I know there are people who do. And it“s certainly an interesting premise, one I will give a chance before writing it off for keeps.

 

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Creating a “real” experience from a video game is something that“s always made me uncomfortable. When I“m not alone, I don“t like physically blowing away leaves on my DS screen in Pokémon Pearl. I wouldn“t go out of my way to engage in any activity that encourages me to break the fourth wall while playing a game marketed towards children.

 

If I“m on a handheld in a public place -- which is no doubt what Pokémon GO would push its userbase to do -- I am far more likely to be found huddled in a corner in solitude versus hanging out with a group or community. I also miss the days of being able to stand outside your GameStop store offering an Event Pokémon via wireless and get it without drawing attention to yourself versus engaging a store clerk and obtaining a scratch-card with a code.

 

I am an extroverted introvert at heart. I am fairly capable of being social and talking to friends and strangers alike. But gaming -- unless I“m with my closest friends -- has always been a more isolated experience for me. I rarely play multiplayer games. I set and reach my own goals. My Pokémon journey is a personal one that happens to involve folks like my girlfriend and close friends because... I let it. An experience like what Pokémon GO will attempt to do is just... as far away from my preferred type of gameplay setting as you can get. Gaming for me is about establishing a comfort zone, not stepping outside of it. And I“d much rather do as much as possible alone versus the face-to-face mentality that everyone behind Pokémon GO wants to encourage.

 

...So that“s that. Don“t worry; you“ll never hear the “mobile gaming is ruining everything” spiel from me. Even if I am averse to iOS and Android experiences in general, I know there“s a market for it, and there have been heaps of great games to come from the platform.

 

A Pokémon spin-off game going in this direction makes perfect business sense, and it“s probably going to make a killing for the Pokémon Company. I hope they find success! I just probably won“t take part in it, beyond trying it on for size for a while, or experiencing it vicariously through Holly and other friends who“d be into this kind of thing.

 

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How did you react to this new direction? Are you elated or disappointed? I“m always eager to hear what you all have to say!

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