Pokémon GO – or NO GO?


Our team has been pondering the Pokémon GO hype, playfully but seriously as well. Tommy Gambler has even tested it for us – and made a discovery: Right in front of our IdealismPrevails – office building, there is a Pokémon-GO-stop! This immediately kindled the following hot debate in our team-center:

The Young Generation

Rafael Wimmer makes the start with some Pokémon History:

In 1996, the first games of the franchise “Pocket Monsters Aka and Midori” (dt. Pokémon Red and Green) were created for the Game Boy, but never saw release outside of Japan. In Europe, a revised version of these two games came out in 1999 under the name “Pokémon Red Edition” and “Pokémon Blue Edition”, featuring the first 151 Pokémon (including Mew). Even then, a hunting hype for pocket monsters flared up.

Over time, “Pokémon” evolved significantly: In addition to a television series (which currently has over 900 episodes) and a trading card game, more and more Pokémon appeared;  721 are known by now. The hype, however, subsided soon. The game “Pokémon GO” for IOS and Android, released in July 2016, proves that Pokémon is “happening” again, though. And the figures will rise dramatically in the wake of the many upcoming Pokémon editions in November.

What exactly is Pokémon GO: Pokémon Go is a Smartphone Game published on July 16, 2016. The game uses Google Maps and works with the aid of GPS signals. At famous buildings or panels, statues etc., there are “Pokéstops”, where you receive free items. Optionally you can purchase items at the store in exchange for real money (which is not recommended, as there already are plenty of Pokéstops around). So while walking around with the phone in hand, one may suddenly encounter a Pokémon. What you do then, is throw Pokéballs at it, till it is finally imprisoned. To this end, there is an AR camera, which can be used to display a Pokémon, for instance on one’s desk. These Pokémons can be groomed for more strength. Upon reaching a certain level, one can compete in arenas. The stronger Pokémon wins and its coach becomes arena manager, and can now leave one of his own Pokémon in the arena to fight.

The re-kindled hype can probably be explained by the fact that many of those who played the first Pokémon editions, now enter the new game for nostalgic reasons, because once more – at least temporarily – only the first 151 monsters are up for grabs. In addition to the 3DS Pokémon players, there are certainly those who do not want to buy a 3DS only to play Pokémon. Instead, a general smartphone game is provided for them.

Many players find it “thrilling” to travel through the area in order to capture as many Pokémon as they possible can. The desire to have a large number of Pokémon and particularly strong ones too, in order to do well in arenas, apparently kindles the desire to be the very best at something in people.

I myself think this: when the game first appeared, the desire in me flared up, to be the “very best”, because I’ve always enjoyed playing the Pokémon series and this thing has fanned some fresh air to the Pokémon universe. In addition, one encounters an incredible number of other Pokémon GO players , with whom people can join the monster hunt together.

Andreas Wimmer explains the hype, but is bored with the game anyway:

The media are full of news about this new game, respectively the smartphone app: developed in joint production with “Niantic”, Pokémon Go is officially available in 34 countries (as of 20.07.2016).

In the end, it is about building the strongest possible team. But that proves more difficult than expected, since you can catch certain Pokémon only in particular places. This accounts for all the hype, because you have to move, in order to get better. Nobody wants to be a bad coach. Therefore, even the biggest couch potatoes head out to catch new and powerful Pokémon.

I personally don’t like the game all that much, because it is simply not matured enough. Currently, it lacks an exchange function, with which players could trade Pokémon with each other, as well as a “free” battle, so that friends can determine who is the better, among themselves.

The new hype, I also trace back to the smartphone “support”: No one is willing to buy a “Nintendo 3DS” for one single game. However, since almost everybody already has a smartphone, nothing stands in the way of fun with the game… Or does it?

The whole game is destroyed by permanent server crashes and the servers are often accessible only at every third attempt. The “battery-thirst” complicates the matter, because with a new iPhone, you can play for maybe 2 hours before the device dies down. Here, one must often resort to very expensive “power banks”, with which a mobile phone can be charged on the go one or several times, depending on the model. These also must also be charged, and thus an average player can only play one lengthy session per day. Therefore, the fun with this game is very subdued and reduced.

In my opinion, every active player had better wait it out for 2 months: towards  school start, the server load will decrease, because (hopefully) all students will focus more on school … I think the idea is generally great, only unfortunately a little poorly implemented, since many features are only being patched on now and as a result, of course, the servers are overloaded.

“The complainer” sees little danger in Pokémon GO and finds digital media generally awesome:

I see no danger behind the fact that masses can be controlled through Pokémon. After all, people are about the thing itself and not about the platform, which is why a political app in this format would not prevail – note the lack of political interest in the population.

Conditioning is also permanently present in everyday life: for example, Success is rewarded. The app can hardly be criticized for it: Pokémon Go is really rather about the fun. I myself am generally an avid PC player and think of digital media as the most ingenious method to impart knowledge. A famous example is Minecraft, where you can teach circuits, architecture and other things playfully:

Pokémon GO has e.g. utilized stops that are placed at monuments – that way you learn through the additional information displayed.

Notice: It gets critical, if one is unaware of what is happening with their data. However, the companies themselves often have no other financing option left. There is a plethora of new fee-based MMOs every year, which dissappear into oblivion again, due to the oversupply and the unwillingness to pay on the clientele’s part. Free to Play has prevailed over the last few years (especially since larger user bases are formed, which in turn “recruit” new users). This calls for new financing models. In addition to the data, there is also a financing via Pokecoins, which can be purchased. Since the game is to be fair, you can buy no benefits with Pokecoins, that can not also be earned with time spent playing. This means, however, that you do not have to buy any Pokecoins, which, at any rate, could not cover the costs of development and operation of the game by a long shot.

The 30+ users

Tommy Gambler, our Pokémon Go tester, is enthusiastic:

As always in history, you can use any technological achievement in a positive, but also in a negative sense. It is important to remain vigilant and to question what Nintendo e.g. does with the data voluntarily provided by the users. I wanted to understand the hype at any rate, and have dived into the matter – in other words: I tested the game. So: It sure is fun, and I interrupted my research work for two hours yesterday, to head out and hike through the city – it can be regarded as a health-promoting measure. It is a game that definitely encourages going out into the wild. I also want to emphasize the social component, because one just might come into contact with people who do not belong to the same sinus milieu as oneself – so it would mean a widening of horizons.

If one criticizes a possible abuse of the technology for other purposes, through copying of this idea, as an aspect, I say this not the fault of the operator (Nintendo). And I advise, not to read too much into this whole thing. It is a game which moves the masses – and obviously, here the nerve of the time was hit. Rat pipers have always been known to use the technical means of the time to achieve their goals. This is nothing new, but one should not demonize the technology for it. Although I understand any concerns that one can mobilize masses with such technical tools. But this works just as well with hashtags and social media. It was successful in 1938 with radio and cinema propaganda films. Yet, technology can not be stopped, the technical precursors would have existed even without Pokémon Go. So let’s be glad that someone has used the technology for something good.

Conclusion: One ventures out into nature, to play and get some training. Whether that is soccer or Pokémon Go, really does not matter as far as I’m concerned.

Gerhard Kaspar emphasizes the possible consequences:

I do not demonize the game and see the positive aspects: I remember back when my son was little and Pokémon cards were exchanged. Girls and boys were playing without “natural reluctance towards the opposite sex at this age” and, literally, engaged in exchange.
Yet I would like to bring into consideration: What happens to the masses of young people and Millennials who run someplace on command via smart phone? It is enough, if put to negative use, to conjure up a fitting bogeyman – and masses are set in motion. In the truest sense of the word, that is. Commands like “get moving you peoples, listen to the signals” (A socialist hymn), “alongside us marches the future” (typical language used with the HJ children), come to mind. This type of rat piper-ing could truly lay the groundwork for rather less harmless applications.

90 years ago it was the harmless “Wandervögel”, a hiking club, which set the floor for marching. How long before people realize, that political apps can be designed to summon people? In light of this game principle, I unfortunately also have to think of the potential users, who want to play “leader”. If masses can be inspired to participate in a “Pokémon-march”, they can be won over for other marches, as well.

What began with the hashtags, under which you can collect thousands of people, has now reached the next dimension. Furthermore: Imagine someone marking refugee homes. Or “Nazi dwellings”. “Onward to some foreigner-walloping”, “away with the Nazi brood”. – Targeting.

Conclusion: The game itself is harmless. Potentially dangerous implications should however be very carefully watched. As with all technological innovations.

Anna Dichen is thinking of the young psyche of children:

I encounter the Pokémon Go Mania with a great deal of skepticism, especially as a mother of an 11 year old: People are drilled, conditioned and externally controlled – fast reactions are important and once more: to be the “best”. Yes, it’s just a game, a very simple and not particularly complex one, in my opinion. And if one thinks of the many internet hobbies and social media already established, my criticism stands: All is done via fast clicking function without much thought: “report”, “block” and “delete”… with daily and permanent use of that one single tool.. then these games come into use, also…  thus, I see a trend in people to respond quickly and emotionally to just about anything, to always have to be “best”, to “win” and to not dedicate any time to complex and real topics ..

As always, it is certainly a matter of extend, of the virtual game behavior of each user: The dose makes the poison. Playing Pokémon GO daily for more than several hours, over the course of weeks, I find rather questionable. Restricted to one or two hours a day though, I might consider it fun enrichment and welcome change – provided that once in a while one consciously ventures out into nature, without external control. A really focused sporting activity in which one concentrates on the body and not on anything else, I also consider more to the point, therefore I feel the supposed “sporty benefits” of this game are nothing more than an excuse. My daughter (11) is currently with her father in South Tyrol. I inquired with her and found that she is not even aware of the game. Somehow that cheers me up …

Serena Nebo has known this type of game for some time:

The principle has existed for years under the name of Ingress. I myself have never played, because it takes up so much time. The premise is, that aliens gift the world with a new technology and humanity is split into two parties: those who see it as a blessing and unquestioningly side with the aliens, and the suspicious Resistance. The former are the Green Group (nicknamed “Frogs”) while the second constitute the Blue Group (nicknamed “Smurfs”). Now, real places in the city have virtual “portals” added, and can be captured by one or the other group, to which end one has to be in the immediate vicinity. An attack on an opponent’s portal is referred to as “hacking”. The players habitually use their way to work, often also the lunch break, to conquer the surrounding portals for their party. They arrange to meet on evenings or weekends, in order to cover all portals of a district together – because the more and the higher-levelled the players, the easier the conquest. And the better the defenses that you can leave behind. The whole thing is a game that is never finished, apparently is very possessive, and it has formed its own little subculture. The least that can be said, is that it connects people and encourages them to leave the house. Interestingly, the real life “misfits” rather tend to play green, while the blue fraction is chosen preferredly by academics – a reversal of roles, as in the game’s narrative the blue after all represent the resistance. There seems to be a certain amount of prejudice resulting from the different circles.

Well, that’s pretty harmless, but when I think of video games with real virtual reality, I wonder how well the human mind will handle this? I can imagine that it gets tough when a certain degree of realism is reached – visually we are almost there, and as soon as we manage to create the tactile experience to match, delimitation from reality simply no longer exists (to our brains, anyway).

Anyone worried that crowds may subsequently be controlled, or people could somehow be conditioned: Sure, you can subvert and abuse just about anything. The more genius an achievement, the higher its potential in several directions.

And what do Anna Dichen’s Facebook friends have to say?

Well, the majority thinks that everything is pretty much heading in the direction of “mental enfeeblement” and calls for a consideration of the dangers on the road, since everybody will “race someplace, externally controlled”. Furthermore, the permanent location proclamation and data protection issues are considered a danger. A few intelligent friends still play it though, and are thrilled – and still alive, as well. And one friend made us laugh with the following comment:

“Today, we were having a discussion at lunch at my workplace. I had been oblivious to the whole thing, prior to it. One of my collegues was positively thrilled to have caught a Pokemon in the office toilet … Well, ever since, I have been having sort of a strange feeling whenever I went… ”

Translation from German: Serena Nebo


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