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Yeah, Pokemon Go

I'll assume you already know what Pokemon Go is.  It has invaded our house, but this time it was by my choice, not the boys'.

My son Aran (age 19) is autistic and doesn't like to leave the house, so I'm always looking for ways to haul him outdoors.  He's a Pokemon fan, and I urged him to download the game.  He did, with some reluctance, and I had to put it on my phone in order to persuade him.

My youngest Maksim (age 14) scorned the game as stupid.

I took Aran outside to test the game.  We wandered around the subdivision, looking for Pokemon and collecting what few we were able to find.  Aran became more intrigued.  He has an encyclopedic knowledge of every single Pokemon in existence, along with what forms each evolves into, what powers and weaknesses they have, what combat moves they use, and what group each belongs to.  He could recognize any of them at a glance.  It was like walking through a trackless jungle with a field guide who knew every plant and animal.

I found it kind of fun.  The real-world/game-world merge gives the game an immediacy that other games don't have.  It's like running to Zombies Run!, when I can pretend I'm somewhere else in my own neighborhood.  It's interesting to spot the little monsters in real places and know that other people are doing it, too.

Later, I had to run errands.  I took my phone with me and left the Pokemon Go app running.  (I didn't use it while I was driving.)  I discovered several gyms and Pokespots in the area.  Pokespots, for the uninitiated, are local landmarks that grant you little prizes if you stop at them.  I picked up more Pokemon and hit the spots for stuff.  Halfway through my errands, I stopped at home and made Aran come with me.  When he discovered the Pokespots and gyms, he became much more interested.  We gathered enough stuff to boost us up to Level 5, but the local gyms were already boosted up way high, and we couldn't do much with them.

We showed Maksim how it all worked when we got home, and he allowed that the game might have some appeal.  In the evening, he casually asked if maybe he and I could go out and about.  I gravely asserted we could.

I drove Maksim around for a bit, and we stopped at the closest gym, which happens to occupy a 7-11.  Maksim wanted a pop, so we also went inside.  There was something of a line at the machine, and among the people, I saw two young teen boys with Pokemon Go on their cell phones.

A bit later, Maksim found a park with three (!) Pokespots in it.  As I headed down the driveway, I saw a parked car with two middle-aged men in it.  Both had Pokemon Go on their cell phones.  In the parking lot, a thirteen-year-old boy and his sixteen-year-old brother were climbing into a car, both with Pokemon Go showing.  A young woman sat in her car tapping at her Pokemon Go, and two other guys wandered in circles around the park with their phones.

Maksim hit the three Pokespots, then spent considerable time catching fireflies in the summer night air.

My final verdict?

First, there will be (have already been) detractors to the game.  Good heavens!  People are playing a popular video game!  It's popular, so it must be awful.  People are looking at their phones!  This always happens to anything popular, but it never diminishes the thing's popularity.

Second, anything that gets people outside and walking about and talking to each other is a plus.  This is a real-world version of World of Warcraft or City of Heroes, but it gets the players away from their consoles and strolling about outside.  Awesome!  Kudos to Niantic.

One disadvantage to the game is that the Pokemon, Pokespots, and gyms all cluster in more populated areas or in places like shopping malls and parks and such.  If you're a kid living in a subdivision quite some distance from a decent population center, you're out of luck.  Where we live, you have to drive to get to anything major.

I've heard, incidentally, that the Detroit Zoo is a veritable orgy of everything Pokemon Go, including Pikachu. Maybe we'll schedule a visit.

Yes, I'm aware of the potential security bug with the Google sign-in.  (This is why I had the boys use their school Google accounts, which has no email or much of anything else attached.)  I'm assuming Niantic has been alerted to the problem and will address it soon.

I declare this one a win.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 12th, 2016 05:00 pm (UTC)
One problem...
Is that there doesn't seem to be an opt-out for locations. I'm all for people getting out and about, but catching pokemon in the Holocaust Museum, for one actual example, should not be a thing.

(and yes, Niantic is already working on fixing the security issues. That was an oversight in the installation, not a planned feature).
Jul. 12th, 2016 05:19 pm (UTC)
Re: One problem...
I saw that on Esther's page, yeah.

They already excluded schools, or seem to have. Aran and I didn't find a single Pokemon at either of the two schools in our neighborhood. However, the park with three Pokespots has three memorial markers in it, as in "This tree planted in memory of...". I can't think a person or team hand-placed all the spots and gyms; the computer must be picking up local landmarks and stuff from Google Earth or something, and it grabs museums and memorial markers and other landmarks. Some of them are clearly inappropriate, as the Holocaust Center in DC definitely demonstrates. Niantic needs to create a way for a place to opt out of being a Pokemon location. If they excluded schools, they can certainly exclude other locations. I'm sure they will--it'll be a public relations disaster if they don't.
Jul. 13th, 2016 03:22 am (UTC)
Re: One problem...
Niantic Labs was very smart in how they developed this game. It is built on the map from their first augmented reality game, Ingress.

At that point Niantic was owned by Google and used the players of Ingress to find, photograph and geo-tag markers for 'portals'.

Ingress has a sweeping(overwrought) backstory, an ongoing story line and Niantic hosts huge player events for Ingress all over the world.

My husband and I have been playing Ingress for 2 years, never knowing that we were contributing to the fortunes of Niantic and Nintendo by doing their 'field work'. :)

You can find Pokestops and gyms on the Ingress map (I've been told) and there is even a world-wide map that you can zoom in on your current location if you have an active Ingress account.


The development team was very small for a while and they worked hard to keep up with 'portal' submissions and approval. I believe there is/was a way for a location to 'opt out' but they have to know that they are a portal...before the exploding Pokepopularity they might not have known that they were tagged.

Hopefully Pokemon Go will be able to remove some of those troublesome areas for play.

Jul. 12th, 2016 06:22 pm (UTC)
I'm going to keep an eye on the "way for a place to opt out of being a Pokemon location." There's been a lot of discussion on the Society for Creative Anachronism FB groups about whether there is any way (or even if there ought to be a way) to keep people from doing this activity at SCA events, including major events like the two-week long Pennsic War which starts at the end of this month.
Jul. 12th, 2016 07:24 pm (UTC)
Oh geez! I hadn't thought of that one. I can think of a whole host of arguments both for and against. Maybe the War could allow it on certain days or within certain times? I don't know how they could ban it entirely, if they allow cell phones on the premises. It seems like it would spoil the ambiance, that's for sure. Ren Faires might have the same problem, though I suppose any commercial venture would be smarter to embrace it, as some places have already done. ("Yes, we're a gym! Show your Pokemon Go for 5% off a ___!")
Jul. 13th, 2016 03:13 am (UTC)

I won't be playing, as I don't use a smartphone, but some players have already caused me concern. While walking with my wife on the shorefront promenade near our house, we were nearly run down by an inattentive player on a bike. We only avoided collision when my wife put out her hands to grab the on-coming handlebars and shove the bike to the side. At one point, nearly 20 players converged on a park bench, and blocked the entire walkway. It was worse than the tourists on Fifth Avenue.

I'm all for getting kids outside and active, but the downside is real. Pokemon Go is even more immersive and attention-robbing than texting and the usual phone activities.  There have already been players lured into being victims of armed robbers. I don't think the pros outweigh the cons.

The subject of where the game should be allowed and when is an interesting one that I hadn't considered. I just hope they keep it in public places, and away from private property like homes. There are plenty of people who won't take it lightly if teens are climbing fences to reach a Charmander in the shrubbery.

I did suggest to a marketer yesterday that businesses near a Poke Stop could purchase Poke Lures. After it runs out, they could take advantage of the local increase in foot traffic, and offer a time-limited sliding-scale discount based on how many Pokemon a player has caught.

Either way, it sounds like you are enjoying some quality time with your boys, and I wish you good times together.

Jul. 13th, 2016 01:17 pm (UTC)
They just ran an update yesterday that seems to have addressed the access to players' Google stuff.
Jul. 13th, 2016 01:58 pm (UTC)
We just had a Pokemon incident near my home last night. About 70 players converged on a local strip mall. They got a ping on a Pokemon, and headed, as a group, toward its location. The Pokemon appeared, on an island of grass located between the entrance ramp to a major highway, and the highway traffic lanes. I'm not sure how far away one has to be to catch a Pokemon, but apparently some people thought it would be a good idea to cross traffic to get closer. No one was hurt, thankfully.

As noted earlier, I don't play, so I don't know the mechanics of the game. Is there a certain distance you need to be to make a capture? If a large group is all converged on the same Pokemon, can only one person catch it? Or can more than one person catch the same Pokemon in the same location at the same time?
Jul. 13th, 2016 10:07 pm (UTC)
If it appears on your map, you can catch it. In fact, it doesn't appear on your map UNTIL you can catch it, so I don't know how they figured they had to cross the highway to grab it. You do have to be within--I think--40 meters for a Pokemon first to appear. You can tell if you're getting close to a Pokemon by looking at a little popup window that tells you approximately how close some more monsters are, but there's nothing to show DIRECTION.

If a Pokemon appears on several screens at once, any or all the players can catch it. It isn't a "Ha! I got it and now you can't!" thing. All those memes on Facebook I've seen about kids rushing to a spot for a Pokemon only to discover that an old man walking a dog or a grandma on a park bench has snatched it away from them are totally bogus. Aran and I have both caught the "same" Pokemon several times! I'm glad it works that way. There'd be fighting otherwise.
Jul. 13th, 2016 10:10 pm (UTC)

That all sounds logical and well-planned.  Maybe they need to make the "catch at a distance" thing clearer to new users.

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
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