Pokemon GO, where virtual creatures alter real life

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/7/20 9:34:20

The crowd playing Pokemon GO is expanding. According to TechCrunch, a technology website, the game is scheduled to be launched in Japan, the birthplace of Pikachu, on Wednesday.

GOP convention is underway. Meanwhile, some smaller-scale conventions are also carried out from time to time in many cities in the United States. In New York City, for example, groups of young folks gather at certain landmarks in the city from time to time. This has nothing to do with politics, though, they are just trying to throw a ball at a virtual creature on the street, via the smartphone game Pokemon GO.

"When we walk around, you can just see groups of people there playing it," says Lydia, a New York resident who was seen playing the game in Central Park last weekend. She was among hundreds of her peers, sweeping a curve on the screen of her phone, trying to catch a "monster".

For those who don't know yet-which basically means you are outdated, Pokemon GO is a smartphone rejuvenation of the popular Japanese video game series Pokemon that dated back to the 1990s. In the game, players are required to explore their surroundings to find creatures, train them, and use them to fight against other players.

What makes it special, though, is that it is also an augmented reality app.

"You look through your phone's camera, and the game is placed on top of your reality," said Rick Bross, an HTML5 game developer based in New York. "So you are actually catching Pokemon as if it is next to you."

The game has become so popular that Rick Bross even organized a meetup dedicated to the game last weekend. Over 1,000 Pokemon "trainers" turned out at Washington Square Park, the gathering point. They walked along landmarks in the city, searching for these digital characters through their phones.

"The popularity of Pokemon GO is almost exponential, every day, I'm doubling the amount of Likes on the page on Facebook," Bross told Xinhua ahead of the event.


Just several days after the release of the game, its rank rocketed to the top place in Apple's app store, and Android's Google Play. Now, Pokemon GO has been downloaded for over 10 million times in Google Play.

Following the craze, Japanese gaming company Nintendo, who invested in the game last year, has enjoyed its biggest weekly share price gain in more than 30 years. At Tokyo Stock exchange, the company's stock jumped by nearly 50 percent in the two weeks after the advent of the smartphone game.

Apart from the economic benefits that some big companies enjoy, smaller business have also tasted the sweetness brought along, as Pokemon GO draws players to "Pokemon Gyms" and "PokeStops", real-world locations that could yield business.

"Right now, I was playing Pokemon GO game in the park and I got hungry, I went to the Whole Foods across the street, I wouldn't have done that if I was not here playing the game," said Bross.

The blackboard outside a pizzeria in downtown Chicago, for example, writes "Catch me here at Pizzeria UNO". Yelp, a review app for local business very commonly used in US, has recently added "Pokestop Nearby" tag, attracting players to come to the location.

Some players do get so addicted as to fall into some danger while playing, for example bumping into some pole trying to chase a monster, or causing some minor stampedes at Pokemon gyms, where players gather to "fight" with their Pokemons. However, taking advantage of the addiction, some children's hospitals in US have been getting young patients to speak and interact with each other, according to local reports.

"The game is able to bring people out and burn some calories while you are having fun," said Bross.


Virtual reality and augmented reality are taking great leaps nowadays. They have something common, both altering the version of the world as we perceive it. If VR is trying to give us a new artificial world, AR, on the other hand, is offering a better version of it-as in Pokemon GO, where the streets are scattered with virtual creatures.

While Mark Zuckerberg spent 2 billion US dollars of Facebook's money on VR device Oculus, Microsoft's AR gadget HoloLens is also catching investors' attention. Both technologies are touted as the direction where future gaming industry could be developing.

"I definitely think gaming should be moved away from stationary screens in our living rooms and it's either going to be a mobile app or not even a visual experience at all," Bross says.

"A game based solely on gesture and voice, for example," he said.

Posted in: Video Games

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