As someone on the wrong side of 50, even one who has been very active in the tech world for a long time, I was fascinated to watch how fast Pokémon Go became a thing!
It seems almost bizarre that the app now has more active users than Twitter, but as the first augmented reality game that is readily available to almost everyone (who doesn’t have a smart phone these days?) I suppose it is not really that surprising.
My curiosity was piqued as soon as I heard one of my kids telling another one of mine that they had to get this app. And so, for the purpose of “educational research”, I downloaded it a few days later. And I have been playing it ever since 🙂
But as I am an adult, and a parent of a teen, and a teacher, I have tried to stand back a bit and think about the game in a more analytical way than most of the players. Don’t expect anything profound here, but I thought some parents who perhaps haven’t tried it out might like to read this post.
Firstly, some random thoughts
- Niantic has created a really great game – simple yet with plenty to keep one playing for a long time
- Augmented reality games are now going to be the new rage. Expect to see many many more like this – but none are likely to have the same impact, of course.
- Also expect existing augmented reality apps to suddenly become more popular. I just discovered there is a Zombies, Run app that allows you to be part of a story, and you guessed it, you do a lot of running!
- Niantic programmers are going to be working long hours as the app is still very buggy! It often (for me ‘often’ equals about 8 times out of 10) fails to load and the app freezes regularly.
- The sales of external battery packs could soar. This app eats through your battery in no time at all! (You can prolong battery life by using low power mode).
- It’s going to be interesting once school starts up again. If Pokémon are roaming the school corridors along with the students, the number of students late to class and the inventive reasons for being late could escalate.
It’s fun to play – watch this video of kids teaching their gran to play!
- As has been mentioned repeatedly online, it does get kids and teens up and moving! My friends have reported that their teens now ask to accompany them on errands to find Pokémon, Pokéstops to replenish supplies and Pokémon gyms to train their Pokémon. They are also going for walks as this is the only way to hatch eggs. The app can detect the speed at which you are moving, and so you really do have to cover the distance on your legs. The shortest distance is 2km but I know some eggs require you to walk 10km!
- I have not yet visited a gym but I know that’s where you go to train and fight. Even without knowing the details of how it will work it is obvious that strategy is going to be involved. And that gets the players using their brains.
- Players will do stupid things. Like trying to break into a medical facility at night to catch Pokémon. (This happened in my home town) And not looking where they are going (Niantic has a big warning as you open the app – but well, you know how it goes – look at all the accidents with people taking selfies!)
- Players will do inconsiderate things. Like trying to catch Pokémon in the parking lot while a funeral service was in progress. (This happened at my home church).
- Some players will get addicted. Pokémon Go will become their purpose in life. But those people would likely always find something to become addicted to anyway.
- It uses data – so families with multiple players may have extra charges on their cellphone accounts as a result. So far this hasn’t been a problem for us, but we aren’t playing much in non-wifi areas.,
Overall, I think Pokémon Go will do for augmented reality apps what Serial did for podcasts – make people aware of what they are. I am excited to see the way augmented reality can be used in education.
And in my house, there is no unhealthy obsession with the game, just an increased desire by some of us to get out and moving a bit more. If an app can make exercise more enjoyable – that’s a good thing in my opinion.
I am sure the craze will die down somewhat in a few weeks – but no doubt thousands will keep on playing and hopefully the end result be healthier and mentally sharper players.
What do you think? Are your kids playing? Are you?