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How Pokémon Go Kick-Started Virtual Reality Love

Combining novelty, nostalgia and reality, Pokémon Go has spread infectiously since it’s launch just last week. A smartphone app boasting more users than Twitter and Netflix (let that sink in for a second), throwing Poké Balls  has now become an acceptable pastime. Far from being banished to gaming in dim light at all hours or restricted to the gaming stereotypes, Pokémon Go has ignited a celebration of gaming across a range of people. Avid gamers however enthralled note that the game is not particularly beautiful, nor wonderfully crafted, but the game’s ability to infiltrate reality has led to its viral expansion.

Pokémon is no stranger to handheld game-play, the Game Boy hosted the quest since its inception in 1999, valuing mobility well before its time. But bringing Pokémon into the real world has caused friction at every intersection. The augmented reality inviting Magikarps and Mudkips into our everyday life works harmoniously with Google Maps expansive technology. Poké Gyms popping up into the oddest of locations across the country, no corner left unfettered and not a single boundary in site.

The game’s designers have been criticised heavily for allowing players to search for Pokémon in cemeteries, police stations, courts even swarming children’s playgrounds at all hours or horrifically play at Auschwitz among other significant sites. Unfamiliar with the real world landscape they now exist in, rendering this immersive game play has come to interfere with social boundaries and blur lines of acceptable game-play. Transforming a place of sanctity, a space for reverence and turning it into a digital arena is ethically questionable or morally inept.

Although the interface of Pokémon Go lacks a certain graphic flare we come to expect these days, the psychology of building an augmented reality worth losing yourself in is being heralded. Merging the addictive features of games like Candy Crush that reel players in before offering in-app purchases to progress and the real world elements; players feel like they are spending their money on an experience beyond a game.

Augmented Reality is an exhilarating movement in gaming, inserting player’s into a tangible space for game-play coloured brilliantly to enhance the real feel of it.

In addition to a number of app developers building this game experience, the help of a Chief Psychology Officer is enlisted to ensure players enjoy the game enough to type the credit card details in search of a level up.  Operating on a system of ego depletion, reciprocity between the game and the player, a currency of the game exclusively, hidden pricing or unique paywalls; the augmented reality world is built to inspire real world spending. These tools create a certain ‘fun pain’, that stomach twisting feeling of waiting to unlock something or the temptation of buying your way up. In a world where time is a valued currency, these constructions have garnered billion of dollars in revenue for game makers.

For the total moral panic that Pokémon Go has engendered, the ability of an app to get hordes of people mobilised and exploring their own city has been largely ignored. The game is designed as if you are embedded in the Poké-world. Walk past a beach? Water Pokémon at the ready. Live in a lush suburb? Pidgey’s galore. Pokémon Go for many users has called them out in the dead of night to find rarities, becoming a daily ritual of playing. For once a niche community of gamers isn’t alone, today’s trainers are unidentifiable and hidden amongst the rest of us nursing our phones at all times.

The criteria for inclusion of a Poké-stop, a place of importance in the game, seeks to inspire players to look around them. Locations are selected if they have “a cool story, a place in history, a cool piece of art or unique architecture… or a hidden gem or hyper local spot.” The constructed reality seeks to showcase the urban wonders we neglect on our commute or weekend stroll.

An estimated 15 million users are taking on the challenge, peering through a lens of enchantment that they didn’t know existed in everyday life. Pokémon Go has enlightened the obstacles realistic game-play faces, the social barriers that stop the gaming instincts and Red Bull fuelled tenacity of game players.

Augmented Reality is an exhilarating movement in gaming, inserting player’s into a tangible space for game-play coloured brilliantly to enhance the real feel of it. In breaking down these barriers, this level of engagement and viral enjoyment will set a standard for gaming experiences in years to come. So go catch that Jigglypuff, roam the streets for a Charizard and be sure to turn your gaze from the screen while you do, just once.

Image Source: The Clicker.

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