I just joylessly caught another Rattata in the street. The truth is, I haven’t had fun playing Pokémon GO in days. And it’s only been out for a little over a week. Over the course of that time, I’ve come to a realization: Pokémon GO is a terrible, terrible game. It freezes 10-15 times a day for me (on an iPhone 6S Plus running the latest version of iOS), pokestops often force me to reopen them several times before they work as intended, the process of catching Pokémon is repetitive and boring, and battles are asynchronous in the worst possible way: fighting another player at the pokegym only happens when one side is controlled by the AI. The flavor graphics look like a beginner’s project in Adobe Illustrator, there’s no plot whatsoever, and no way to meaningfully interact with other players (yes, I’m aware trading is coming soon). Yet I don’t think it’s up for debate: the first world is officially losing its fucking mind over Pokémon GO.

“Two guys just fell of a cliff playing the game (they’re both in the hospital). For the second time, a Pokémon GO player found a dead body.”  

Don’t think so? Let’s recap. Giant crowds of players assembling in Sydney have pissed off local residents enough to attract eggs, water balloons, and, finally, the cops who were called in to rectify the situation. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both been using Pokémon GO in (unsurprisingly) self-promotional manners. Some dude just quit his job to travel the world and catch Pokémon full time. Two guys just fell of a cliff playing the game (they’re both in the hospital). For the second time, a Pokémon GO player found a dead body. Criminals have used the game as a lure to mug unsuspecting trainers. People are hopping fences in zoos and getting arrested for trespassing. Augmented reality Pokemon GO sex pictures are officially a thing on reddit. Nintendo stock has risen more than 70% since the game launched. In fact, Pokémon GO is now the biggest mobile game in US history with approximately 21 million daily active users. So at this point you might ask me: “Julian, if the game is so terrible, why are so many people playing it?”

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I think it’s a confluence of different factors: an innovative mixed-reality concept combined with a hugely celebrated intellectual property (the TV show has been running since 1998, the first game came out in 1996—both remain incredibly popular and relevant). The aforementioned dangers associated with the game and the inevitable media frenzy surrounding them. Near-ubiquitous smartphone ownership, high download speeds, and the game’s free-to-play model. The banalization of ‘nerd’ culture and ‘casual’ gaming in the mainstream and our increasing acceptance of being in public while distracted by our phones. A highly-addictive ‘collect-them-all’ mechanic and the accompanying social element (“did you see what I caught at the supermarket?”) And boredom. Good old boredom.

“The truth is, it doesn’t fucking matter if Pokémon GO is a ‘good game’ or even ‘fun’ to play. It’s like herpes. Most people already have it, and it’s spreading effortlessly.”  

The truth is, it doesn’t fucking matter if Pokémon GO is a ‘good game’ or even ‘fun’ to play. It’s like herpes. Most people already have it, and it’s spreading effortlessly. Much like my smartphone usage in general, the game is just stimulating enough to keep me mindlessly returning to it, but not enough to make the process an actual pleasure. And much like capitalism, Pokémon GO uses our modes of communication to continue spreading. When you take into account that 93% of 18-29 year olds say they use their smartphone to “avoid being bored”, 47% to “avoid others around [them], and 57% to “find a good way to get somewhere”, it’s no surprise how effectively Pokémon GO has grown in popularity. Speaking of capitalism, here are some other interesting insights: Advertising agencies are “scrambling” to put together strategies that involve Pokémon GOA deal with McDonald’s (and other corporate chains) is already in the works. And I wouldn’t discount the profits made from the sales of in-game items either (it’s already the top grossing game across the Apple and Android stores, and got there more quickly than Clash Royale did).

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“Goddamnit Julian,” you must be thinking, “isn’t this supposed to be a review? Aren’t you supposed to tell me if Pokémon GO is a game worth playing?” The truth is: that’s just not possible in this case. Pokémon GO is not really a game. It’s a force of nature. It’s a turning point in global culture. By the time it’s done with us, Pokémon GO (and its inevitably endless successors) will have profoundly changed the way we relate to each other and to the world, including the rewriting of what public / private spaces are, what user privacy means, and what the term ‘get out of the house’ even signifies. Trying to review Pokémon GO is like trying to review the internet. Good fucking luck with that buddy. Should you play it? I think the proper question to ask yourself is: “how deeply has it already affected me and those around me?” Now think about this: the game has only been out for less than ten days in North America.

About The Author

Editor in jefe

Julian is a pair of glasses in third transformation. He's on an eternal quest to find the perfect RPG that will solve all his problems.

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