By Cameron Cole
Ka LĀ staff writer
With over 10 million downloads in the first week of release, Pokemon Go has reached worldwide pop culture status. Even if you have never played Pokemon Go personally, you’ve seen it on social media, on the news, or even on the phones of fellow pedestrians.
Pokemon Go is played through compatible phones (Android, Apple) via an app. It involves searching for creatures called Pokemon, which appear in a virtual reality map displayed on the screen. The object of the game is to find and collect these Pokemon by searching oneʻs surroundings. HonCC student Kaitlen Daoang found herself unable to resist joining up, telling us “I didn’t think about downloading the app until I saw my two younger brothers playing it. They were talking about who caught the most “eevees” (a type of Pokemon), and me being the competitive person that I am, I had to download the game so I could catch more Pokemons than they could.”
Based on the extremely popular Pokemon videogames where players explore a virtual world while capturing, training, and battling Pokemon, Pokemon Go allows fans to take that sense of discovery and excitement out into the real world. Prospective Pokemon masters must physically walk around to find wild Pokemon, which will appear on the map once close enough. Once clicked on, the player will get a chance to flick a “pokeball” to capture and contain the Pokemon.
Once caught, Pokemon can be viewed, nicknamed, and powered up to do rudimentary battle at “gyms.” Once a high enough level is reached, players are asked to join one of three teams. These teams have no effect on gameplay besides gyms, which can be claimed and defended by Pokémon belonging to players of a particular team, netting those players some in game currency if they prevent other teams from capturing it for long enough.
Niantic, the company behind Pokemon Go, previously worked on a game with very similar gameplay called Ingress. The game, while functionally very similar to Pokemon Go, lacked the well-loved Pokemon themselves. This marriage of Western app and Japanese intellectual property was orchestrated by Tsunekazu Ishihara, CEO of the Pokemon Company and (tremendous Ingress fan), and led to whirlwind success, with Pokemon Go garnering an impressive 10 million downloads on the Apple App store and Google Play store only a week after its July release.
While hunting for Pokemon, players see their avatar walking around on a Google Maps-style interface (this is no accident, as Niantic Labs’ CEO and founder John Hanke has previously worked with Google on Google Maps). By placing in game destinations at real-world locales such as works of art, parks, and local businesses, Pokemon Go encourages players to stand up and be mobile, to walk around and visit places which they otherwise might never have. These very disparate locations were taken from Ingress, which in turn gathered its points of interest from geotagging and player submissions.
Daoang has hunted for Pokemon in such locations as Kalihi, Kāneohe, Waikīkī, Kakaʻako, Ewa beach, Pearl City, Waipahu, and Nuʻuanu, and has seen and met with other players out trying to catch them all. Kaka’ako and Waikiki near the Waikiki Aquarium are considered local hotspots, often gathering a dedicated group of Pokemon hunters nightly.
Pokemon fans may also note the game only features the original generation of 151 Pokemon, a small slice of the current staggering total of 721 distinct Pokemon from the past six generations of the games, leaving lots of room for Niantic to continue introducing new content to Pokemon Go, hopefully keeping die-hard and casual fans alike hungry for more.