So you have to be living under a rock to have not heard about the new augmented reality map-based game, Pokemon Go!. I first heard about it when it was all over Reddit, soon after its release in early July.
I have to be honest – my first reaction was to ignore it as I thought of Pokemon as a kid’s game/cartoon from the 90’s and that this was some weird throwback retro video game to appeal to kids who grew up in that generation.
But I quickly realised there was more to it – Reddit seemed absolutely obsessed by it and players around the world were even taking an extra step of spoofing their App Store accounts to appear to be Americans, just to download the game early.
My first direct exposure to the game was when I had a kid come into my branch a week ago (before the game was officially released in Canada) with his mom who managed to be both disgusted and impressed – “I hate how obsessed he is with these silly video games but I like that he wants to leave the house to come with me so he can play this new one!”
My staff mentioned they’d seen a few other people coming in to our branch which is apparently a “Pokestop” where you can get extra supplies in the game (libraries are prime locations to capture Pokemons as they’re natural congregating points for the general public) so I sent out a quick note to my staff with some background about the game and a photo I took of some of the creatures the kid had captured.
A few days later, we also got a formal note from RPL Management giving a quick overview of how they hoped to promote and capitalize on the game’s popularity once it was officially released in the coming days.
The game was released in Canada over the weekend when we were out-of-town but we downloaded it yesterday when we got back. Even then, I wasn’t able to get on one of the overloaded servers until today when I finally managed to log-in and capture my (er, technically Pace’s since we’re using his log-in) first Pokemon at work. (As a colleague said, how cool is it when a video game can be considered “professional development”?) 😉
I got some tips from a colleague who’s been playing the game for awhile which helped give me the “gist” of the game. I was also surprised when a couple people showed up right at closing, just to scoop some Pokemons at the library. Then, after we’d locked up, a couple kids were standing outside as I started to drive away. I stopped to talk to them and they confirmed they were also hoping to connect to our wireless then take advantage of our “Pokestop”.
(One *major* downfall of the game is that you basically have to have an LTE/3G enabled phone with fairly modern specs/OS to play the game since it’s based on moving around away from wireless hot spots. It’s an interesting question for libraries – is there a way we can bridge yet another digital divide that has been created in our society, they way we did by installing Minecraft on our public library computers for those who may not have the game at home?)
Tonight, right after supper, Pace and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood hitting a few prime locations – a nearby park, a church, the sign that announces entry into our community, etc. – and as someone else said, it’s both strange and amazing to see people out exploring their neighbourhood and interacting, almost like a throwback to the 1950’s or something – over this common interest.
(Pace even bumped into a classmate at one location, also out with his dad!)
So time will tell how much of this is fad (Minecraft is still popular but has begun to wane a bit as far as I can tell) and how long it lasts. But for the time being, very cool indeed!