It seems that parallel universes are set to become a reality already. A simulated world which Pokemon inhabit and are roaming all around you has taken the gaming world by storm.
Pokémon Go, is a game that takes people to another universe through their phone. This universe is inhabited by exotic monsters, which can be found amid real landmarks and places. Download the game, hold the phone up, and you see them. You can even “capture” them and train them to fight in “gyms,” in real-world locations.
In simple terms, Pokémon Go uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon “appear” around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them. The app’s innovation is its use of augmented reality (AR).
The Pokémon fantasy world is populated by powerful monsters which look like rats, snakes, dragons, dinosaurs, birds, eggs, trees, and even swords. In this world, people, “trainers”, travel around the globe to tame these creatures and train them to fight against each other. At a certain level in the game, players can congregate at actual local landmarks to join teams and battle it out with each other.
Based on the premise of bug catching — a popular hobby in Japan, where the games originated — the big goal in the Pokémon games is to collect all of these virtual creatures.
As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is. You can seek out virtual creatures while at work, even while going to the bathroom. Zubats and Paras have appeared on car dashboards and Caterpies have been spotted at road junctions. You may catch a Bulbasaur, Charmeleon or even Pikachu in your back garden.
You then throw Pokeballs at the online “pocket monsters”, or Pokemon, to capture them for training. At other locations called “gyms” – Pokemon battle each other for supremacy.
Part of the reason for Pokémon Go’s popularity is that it’s free, it’s easy to download and play. But more importantly, Pokémon Go fulfills a fantasy Pokémon fans have had since the games first came out: What if Pokémon were real and inhabited our world? Pokémon Go is an attempt at realizing what fans always wanted from Pokemon. Seeing a Pikachu on the sidewalk in front of you is a fan’s digital dream come true.
Pokémon Go became a phenomenon almost overnight. This weekend after it’s release social media feeds clogged the net. People have been posting pictures of themselves on chasing virtual creatures in lots of potentially dangerous situations. It is like an obsession gripping both kids and adults alike. It has brought people together, even inspiring clever thieves. This is something new.
In this past weekend, crowds of people have ventured outside to play the game, alone, together, in the real world in an augmented reality. It is another way of getting social. Complete strangers recognise what the others are doing. They turn into collaborators or competitors. They chat with each other about the game. The app seems to set aside all differences in people for a while uniting them all in the love of the game.
Meanwhile, Pokémon Go has warned players to be aware of their surroundings during their virtual hunt even as their eyes are glued to their smartphone screens in search of the digital monsters.
“We encourage all people playing Pokémon GO to be aware of their surroundings and to play with friends when going to new or unfamiliar places. Please remember to be safe and alert at all times.”
As it is some strange things have happened, People have ended up injuring themselves chasing virtual creatures in dangerous areas. Police have had to warn people not to break the law or endanger themselves while “Pokemoning”.
In Wyoming on Friday, the game led a teenager to a dead body in a river. 19-year-old Shayla Wiggens had gone hunting for Pokemon when she spotted the body.
Another news tied to the game is of a robbery. Police believe the suspects used the app’s geo-location feature, to tempt players into secluded areas where they could be easily robbed.
The game has a database of interesting locations meant to be visited in person — PokéStops, where players can retrieve helpful items like potions, or gyms, where they can train their Pokémon.
Involuntarily, some people have had their homes overtaken. Boon Sheridan, who lives in Massachusetts was surprised to find that his house has been marked as a Pokémon gym. He found many cars parked outside his home with people glued to their phones inside.
More than a million people have already downloaded the app. The mania all started at Google, like some others. A few years ago, a startup inside the company called Niantic Labs developed technology that could link game-play to GPS locations, effectively turning the real world into a game board through augmented reality.
Pokemon Go debuted at the top of gaming charts in the US last week and is set to be released in Japan soon, although it is not available yet in the UK. Shares in the Japanese gaming company Nintendo jumped by nearly a quarter on Monday following the success of Pokemon Go. Players are spending about 43 minutes a day on the game, more than WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger but will probably reduce after a while.
It’s good news all the way for Nintendo. The Japanese gaming giant has a 33% stake in the Pokemon company. It has also created a small wearable accessory that buzzes if the monsters are nearby.
The app needs lots of permissions – location data, camera and more. Almost overnight, its developer Niantic has found itself in possession of an enormous amount of data about specific people. People are putting pressure on it to clarify what it intends to do with that information.