Poking Around the Viral Game

Keeping an open mind about Pokemon Go
It’s an opportunity to learn about new technology

Hamilton Spectator, August 18, 2016
By Randy Kay

 
Pokemon Go is here and the augmented reality game has hit the population like a dose of Beatlemania, without the music, and the screaming. No screaming, please, it’s 2016.

 

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Just starting on the Pokemon journey…

 

Confronted with the new, previous generations, including the one who shrieked The Beatles out of performing live, unfortunately have trouble understanding quieter, emergent crazes.

I’ve already experienced thinly veiled insults while exploring the game. On James Street North a woman interrupted me and my companion with “look up, the moon is beautiful tonight.”

I immediately understand her point, but the fact she felt emboldened to make it suggests something about her attitude toward us.

The kitchen staff out for a smoke by the back door of a nearby hotel offered, a whiff of smugness mixed with the exhale of tobacco, “don’t get run over.”

I’m old enough that other adults should probably not be saying things like that to me. Besides, I’ve already been warned: as the game loads the first message is: “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings”.

Players are not mindless zombies despite congregating at all hours in parks to silently address the action unfolding on their smartphone screens.

Capturing Pokemon characters is, after all, a series of fun, short-lived moments of focused, stationary play. Large gatherings of players likely indicate a special place known as a Pokemon gym, where teams battle for control of the site. These people are not generally moving anywhere fast, and stand or sit rooted to a patch of earth to play.

My concern is less with the game and the overblown dangers associated with it, (as the death toll on roads carries on unabated) and more the negative reactions to it.

You have no pokeballs in the game? Maybe you are missing an opportunity to “evolve”. In the business world there’s a distinction between a mind set that is fixed or growth oriented. Players are growth, engaging, trying new things. No amount of Pokemon potions will revive a fixed mindset. You are too faint of heart.

Social media is the platform and this game is taking it to new territory.

In Westdale a trio of musicians from the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra has set a lure at the Pokestop by the post clock. “Lures” sprinkle purple flowers that fall confettilike on phone screens temporarily to attract more Pokemon, and more players, to a particular stop. One of the musicians is my daughter, who called to see if I was in the area. I was already on my way, drawn by the lure and the chance to collect Pokemon.

This was my first exposure to Pokemon Go as a social media marketing device. Businesses are a half-step behind. Having a Pokestop near your store can be a boon to business, but only if you engage with it.

It’s not just teens and twentysomethings playing. The little girl who we met, excitedly cheerleading her mom’s pokeball throwing prowess, the rest of her family contentedly lounging on the side of Millionaire’s Row in the Hamilton Cemetery.

I already regularly walk through this historic cemetery. I still stop to take a photograph of the sunset over Cootes Paradise, but now I can hit some Pokestops along the way.

Pokestops here include information about the historical graves so you can actually learn something about the people and the place while playing. These Pokestops have more potential to enhance a visit than the already weather worn — and broken — smartphone stations the cemetery was installing at select sites.

Augmented reality has just — literally — been placed in our hands. This is only the beginning. If you faint like a weak Pokemon at the slightest innovation, you are going to miss the potential in new technology.

Learning can be mobile and fun, it’s positively disruptive if applied to get kids out from behind desks and playing as they learn. Disruptive is what schools desperately need.

To play I usually walk or ride my bike. I’ll confess I even ordered a special phone-mount for my handlebars. Maybe that was a bit too much, but it makes playing and navigating easier.

I’m not the only one buying-in. My tech guys at the local computer store are all out of portable phone chargers. Buyers say it’s for work. The staff know better.

My skill on Pokemon Go is nothing to brag about. I’m learning as I go, getting advice from other players in the field, of whom there are plenty. I feel that I will probably even drift away from the game. But there is something important here, even if it is the opportunity to challenge your sense of adaptability and curiosity, two qualities that we should value in people of all ages. But at very least, keep an open mind.

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