Welcome to Pokémania 2.0. Here, you can no longer tell gameworld apart from the real world. A new mobile game, Pokémon GO, has taken over your life – if it hasn't yet, it will – in a matter of days.
Pokémon GO, a “real world adventure game”, uses your phone camera, GPS and augmented reality to insert Pokémon in, well, your real world. To catch a Pokémon you have to throw a Pokéball at it, and if you hit right, the Pokémon adds to your Pokédex. Yes, you read that last sentence right.
A short tutorial when you start out gets you your first Pokémon, after which you are free to wander around and catch more. Moving around is crucial – you can collect Pokéballs at Pokéstops, besides finding new Pokémon, and also use that energy to hatch mysterious Pokémon eggs.
Tweets and social media posts are swarming with accounts of players walking around all night, in neighbourhoods they wouldn’t have otherwise visited, to catch the little monsters. One news report even says a 19-year-old found a dead body while pursuing a Pokémon. The game is quite possibly the most engaging way to get people to explore their surroundings, and doubles up as citizen patrol, if enough people decide to turn into Pokézombies (that’s not a real thing).
The game requires people to get out of their houses but not out of their phones, just what the world had possibly been waiting for. Flaneuring with a purpose.
To get people to explore their surroundings is the rather egalitarian idea behind the game. As you walk around the real world, your phone will vibrate when there's a Pokémon nearby. Grass confetti animations also serve as a guide to finding them. The website for the game of course cautions against playing while driving.
In India, with its crazy traffic, situations like the one below may be quite regular. Seriously though, since the game requires you to look into your phone, it is advisable to avoid places where you can possibly be "wasted".
The game was launched in New Zealand and Australia on Tuesday, and in the US on Wednesday. Its further release in other parts has been put on hold until its servers recover from "player overload". The company is looking to fix the problem before further releases.
We tried it, and there is no option but to get out of your comfort zone, if you want to catch those wild Pokémon. We spotted five of these magical phone creatures on a short walk around Mumbai's Santacruz East suburb, terrorising from the middle of the road:
All these are now in the Pokédex obviously.
It will be interesting to see if this game picks up in India, or Mumbai at least, what with the traffic, rain, and the crowds. Imagine walking around trying to catch Pokémon at the Dadar station during peak hours.
The picture below from the "Pokémon GO" Reddit thread captures Nintendo's efforts, over the years, to get people to go outside.
Can we do this? Maybe we can.