By: Ignacio Martinez
I knew when my best friend, a die-hard trend and social media avoider, downloaded the app to “see what it was about:” Pokémon Go would be huge. Like, really huge.
The app, developed by Nintendo and Niantic, has temporarily changed the way society functions. Gatherings at popular Pokéstops occur at all hours of the night, people plan outings centered on Pokémon hunts, and loyalty to the in-game teams (Team Instinct, Team Mystic, and Team Valor) has reached die-hard levels with teams planning raids via Facebook groups to take over specific areas of a city. Since the mobile phone game’s American release on July 6, the app has, at times, surpassed the amount of Twitter’s daily active users – as of July 13, the app had seen 21 million active daily users, making it the largest mobile game of all time.
After a quick tutorial and a choice between three iconic 1st generation starters: Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle, ‘Pokémon Go’ drops its players directly into the heart of the experience. The game incentivizes players to start exploring from the get-go and therein lays the main mechanic of the game – but instead of walking forward by pressing your thumb against an arrow button, the app uses GPS signal and a player’s own two feet to walk them around the virtual and physical worlds. After wandering around for a small amount of time, a player will almost certainly find a Pokéstop or Gym. To me, this is where the crux of the game lies. Gyms push players to level up and catch the strongest Pokémon for the purposes of claiming Gyms for their teams. However, Pokéstops appear to be an even more crucial aspect of the game’s incredible success so far.
Pokéstops, locations where players can replenish items, are often found at real world landmarks and locations – murals, theaters, popular businesses. These are the mechanic of the game that engenders a community.. At a Pokéstop, any player has the ability to set down a “lure module” that will attract a higher density of Pokémon to that particular spot for half an hour. Once a lure is set, if the Pokéstop is in a popular area, the arrival of dozens of other players is almost guaranteed. Currently, two of the most popular Pokéstops in downtown Austin are the UT Turtle Pond and the Texas Capitol and since the game’s release, large congregations at these locations have been occurring daily.
For Josh Montgomery, a UT student and avid ‘Pokémon Go’ fan, the game brought on an unexpected wave of nostalgia. “I spent 3 hours today with friends walking around Auditorium Shores in downtown Austin hunting Charmanders. I saw all my fellow Pokéfans, some sticking out like sore thumbs outside of their element, laughing and hunting their virtual Pokémon like they had always wanted to while growing up,” he says.
“I saw all my fellow Pokéfans, some sticking out like sore thumbs outside of their element, laughing and hunting their virtual Pokémon like they had always wanted to while growing up”
The reason for the ‘Pokémon Go’ phenomenon is how perfectly it balances the dichotomy of single and multiplayer. Despite the overwhelming sense of community surrounding the game, every player will have their very own unique experience. With the nearly 150 Pokémon available to be found currently, it is highly unlikely that two players will collect the same roster of Pokémon and aside from certain popular destinations, every person will find their own path to find those rare Pokémon and become the very best.