With the amount of tracking and realism being incorporated into our gadgets, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the world has been teetering on the edge of a full blown AR-explosion for quite some time. So it is not surprising that it was Niantic, riding on the back of its success with Ingress, that finally pushed the world over that AR-edge when it launched Pokémon Go recently. Apart from driving people nuts, what it has also done is increase the count of "under the rock" beginnings on such articles. If you still don't know about Pokémon Go, you were probably hit by a rock instead of being under it, and have been in a coma for the past few weeks. It is basically a game that lets you pretend you are a Pokémon catcher and the world around you has Pokémons that you can catch by swiping imaginary Pokeballs at them. To start with, it is a brilliant concept with a sure shot formula for success. I mean, who wouldn't want to relive their childhood days with a bunch of cute animated creatures?
I hopped on to the craze too and started playing it. Since the app mandates moving around the real world to move around in-game, I believed that I had an advantage since I travel about 40 kms each day. And I wasn't wrong. Eggs were hatching left and right and I was identifying particular spawn spots everywhere. Before I knew it, I was strapped to the catch'em all bandwagon. In fact, I actually felt jealous of people around me who were playing it on their PCs using emulators and spoofing their location. They had it easy and simply pressed buttons on their keyboard to move around the entire world catching Pokémon. Their advantage? Well, they could teleport themselves to say Sydney where people actually spent more on things like Lure modules and you were highly likely to come across rare Pokemons. Worried about the chance of being banned? What are fake accounts for you choir boy?! The possibility of Pokemon trading between accounts in the future would let you transfer the ones you caught from the banned account to another one.
And then it hit me.
One day, my phone, which was always on my desk with Pokémon Go open and charger plugged in, suddenly shut down without warning. I assumed it was a battery discharge and tried to switch it on again, which it refused to do. It was then I realised that my phone was perhaps at the highest temperature it has ever been. I gave it a while and switched it back on – and as expected, it had about 60% of charge, having lost about 20% without any explanation. Still, I refused to stop playing. That is until the same happened to me while I was walking on the road with Pokémon Go open. Once again, another 20% drop. This had me alarmed. I have played 700MB full blown RPGs on my phone without such an occurrence.
Despite the infamous Mumbai monsoon, the very next day was a bright and sunny one – perfect for Pokemon hunting, I figured. I was on the bus as my daily routine commanded, and Pokémon Go was on my lap with the brightness set to max to compensate for the increased natural light. By the time I reached office, I realised I was feeling positively dizzy and had difficulty concentrating on the words on my monitor. I should probably declare here that I have a -ve power in one of my eyes that is close to two in magnitude. It took me almost an entire day to recover from this weird dizziness. This is where I started observing what my lifestyle had become thanks to this game.
I used to listen to the radio on my way to work. I had stopped that to conserve battery for this game, not that the constant GPS and data usage was letting me save much anyways. I literally started feeling frustrated and angry at the frequent “GPS not working” messages from the app, and the in-game character stopping any movements even though everything else was fine. One such day, I got a message from my data provider saying that I had used 90% of my data, after which I rushed to check the data usage. Pokémon Go had used about 200MB of data in its 12 days on my phone. On a 800MB monthly data plan that is also used by Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, that was costly.
But the biggest cost was what I saw around me, or rather, what I was missing out on so far. After I stopped firing up the game in transit, I realised how much I liked looking around at people, at the rain and the things happening around me while listening to some music from the yesteryears. Call me old but I felt that I like this much more than obsessing about catching imaginary creatures.
I started seeing people around me who would rather hatch their eggs and throw pokeballs than have a conversation. Even if they did have a conversation with you, it would probably be about those eggs and balls. I could see what I must have looked like for more than a week.
Another big question that came into my mind at this point was – What is the endgame? What is the objective of this game? Where does it end? It is meant to be unending and a money guzzler after a point of time, or a bore once you have caught em all (Probably much before that).
There are brilliant games coming out there that are probably being overshadowed – games more on the lines of Limbo, Brother: Tale of Two sons and more. Take ‘Her Story’ as an example. This award winning detective game hit the Play Store last month, and it is considered by many to be one of the most memorable gaming experiences in recent times. In the game, you watch videos and interviews from a police archive to deduce who the killer is, accompanied by an interesting storyline full of twists and revelations. Have you heard about it? No, right? Precisely. It would be a rather sad day in the world of mobile gaming if these trending titles keep trumping some really good quality stuff here.
Think I’m being a little too hard? After all, it’s just a silly game! Well may be. And it might be possible that my opinion of it would have been completely different on a better phone and a shorter daily commute. But I seriously doubt that possibility, now that Pokémon Go is Pokémon Gone from my life!