by Robert Sharrow
As you may have heard in our recent podcast, Pokémon Go has captured the world. We haven’t seen a mobile game generate this much attention since Minecraft’s Pocket Edition, the original Angry Birds, or Candy Crush Saga, and Pokémon Go is only just getting started. The game still has a lot of glitches and kinks to work out, but the adoring public doesn’t seem to care. This is a big, big game.
But what exactly makes it such a hit? These are a few theories—some obvious and some less so.
Nostalgic Appeal Is Off The Charts
The obvious point to make regarding the popularity of Pokémon Go is that it scores off the charts with nostalgia. If you belong to the so-called “Millennial” generation you can likely remember the first time you played with Pokémon back when they were first introduced. It might have been making that fateful choice between Squirtle, Charmander, and Bulbasaur in Prof. Oak’s lab, or it may have been trading for your first Pikachu card. You probably remember fighting gym battles, obtaining new items, and trying to figure out how to get Snorlax out of your way. And now, you can do it all in real life.
That’s the foundation of Pokémon Go’s success, and it’s no secret. The New York Times went so far as to write an article calling this Millennials’ “first nostalgia blast,” and while that sounds dramatic, it’s probably a fair point. The article went on to say that Pokémon Go is proof that Millennials are getting old (something you might not like hearing). However, but the idea that this generation is finally able to reach back to its childhood (and not just through Buzzfeed articles about ‘90s topics) is strangely delightful.
It’s Something To Talk About
Even the most popular mobile games haven’t exactly been ideal for everyday conversation. That’s not to say no one talks about them, but there’s only so much you can say about your latest round on Angry Birds or how well you’re doing in Candy Crush. You might share a Minecraft design now and then, but you probably aren’t getting into a lengthy discussion about it.
Pokémon Go, on the other hand, is something to talk about. “Are you seeing a Psyduck nearby?” “Can you believe I caught a wild Fearow?” “Want to head to the church down the road for some gym battles?” These are legitimate questions in everyday conversation now. There’s not much of a social component actually built into the game, but it’s become a foundation for a whole new type of social interaction, and one that’s purely fun. Little Creatures Work In Mobile Gaming
In a more abstract sense, we knew before Pokémon Go that small creatures tend to be appealing to mobile gamers. There’s almost a silly aspect to most mobile games, and thus critters like Pokémon just seem to be well suited. And we’re not just talking about the Angry Birds, or the little characters you walk across the highway with in Crossy Road. The truth is little creatures have permeated pretty much every genre of gaming.
We see little pixelated cartoon characters in sports games. There’s a game that turned Marvel superheroes into young children studying superpowers in an academy. And perhaps most surprisingly, Gala Casino’s mobile gaming collection focuses on slot titles like “Land Of Gold” and “Guardians.” Those games use leprechauns and lovable little animals, respectively, on their slot reels. From sports, to superheroes, to casino content, there’s nowhere little characters and critters aren’t welcome in mobile gaming—and Pokémon are the little critters of gaming.
Open Your Eyes, This Is Virtual Reality
Not many people are calling Pokémon Go virtual reality (or more accurately, augmented reality), but let’s all open our eyes because that’s just what it is! We’re living in the year of VR in gaming, and Nintendo and Niantic have released the most popular VR game in existence without even using the new headsets that are popularizing the medium!
A Time Magazine write-up on the app’s popularity jokingly suggested that its players are accidentally getting exercise, and that’s just the point. This game forces players to get out and explore the real world, finding Pokémon on their streets and in their neighborhoods, and then using them within the game. It’s difficult to imagine something that more closely approaches the point of virtual reality than that.
There’s So Much More To Do
This is a big game, and there’s always a new Pokémon to search for and a new improvement to make. But as big as Pokémon Go already is, some players are also excited about where it might go from here. For instance, what’s to stop the developers from building in a peer-to-peer challenge system whereby you could challenge a friend to a Pokémon battle? What’s to stop them from putting in some kind of social networking or chatting feature allowing friends or teams to keep track of each other’s activity and progress? Pokémon Go is brilliant, but the idea (or possibility) that it’s just getting started makes it almost suspenseful as well.
This is a guest editorial by Robert Sharrow, a freelance writer out of Apex, NC. After recently becoming enthralled by Pokémon GO, he took the time out of his Pokémon journey to type up his thoughts about the game to share with the world.