By Laura LaVacca
Unless you have been living in a cave these past few months, you’ve heard of the gaming app that people of all ages seem to be obsessed with, Pokémon Go. This free-to-play mobile app involves catching Pokémons in real-world locations.
The game uses player’s locations via a GPS system and displays a map of what is actually in front of players. A digitalized version of the user can be customized with clothing and many other options. The goal is to catch Pokémons, some rare, some common in various locations the phone leads you toward. This augmented reality can turn a little too real, when players are asked to purchase various options using real cash or to catch a Pokémon at a local restaurant, bar or even museum. Nevertheless, Pokémon Go seems to be taking over.
As with any video game, people are questioning the impact, especially on students who have been given another reason to possibly be distracted.
Chris Carmichael, Founder of Ubiquity Inc., favors this new world, “Augmented reality is rapidly being deployed in all kinds of settings, including commercial and entertainment. One use for AR is providing more information about a historical site, building or artwork, which I think is great additional information for college students.”
Carmichael is referring to the game’s core of bringing players to new locales they possibly would not have noticed otherwise. In Manhattan alone, Pokémon’s can be found in Bryant Park, Harlem and Union Square. Presently, there are only four Pokémon that are region-specific, Mr. Mime (Europe), Farfetch’d (Asia), Kangaskhan (Australia), and Tauros (North America). Users can travel to these different, exotic spots to collect characters from the game all while experiencing new areas and learning about history.
“Pokémon Go creates another venue for activity, and much of it takes place outdoors and in social settings,” he continues.
The game does have a team option, in which players can play together to collect the characters. However, simply getting out and stopping at the many places on the game’s app brings people together to socialize and meet others.
“Pokémon Go for college students initially can be an ice breaker. It’ll also get them to go out of their dorm and explore their campus and socialize,” Jordan Edelson, Founder and CEO at Appetizer Mobile explains. “The college experience is just as much about learning from traditional academia as it is from life lessons learned from social interactions.”
Carmichael piggy-backs, “As entertainment, Pokémon Go is more active than usual college pastimes such as watching sports events, and provides opportunity for students to mingle like an old-fashioned college mixer.”
Students also note simply how fun it is. Hofstra student Joseph DeMarco notes, “It’s a fun experience. It allows people to easily meet new people. I could see a freshman using it to meet other students because it’s a good conversation starter: What Pokémon have you caught? What’s your strongest one? It’s pretty easy to bond over the game.”
Not only is it promoting healthy social interactions, it’s promoting exercise and stress relief. Because the game requires users to get outside and search their surrounding areas, it’s promoting a less sedentary lifestyle of playing video games or watching television on the couch. In addition, it can be a welcomed break from studying or a chance to refocus oneself when writing that paper that just seems impossible to finish.
“Pokémon Go can be used as a “healthy” escape from daily college stresses,” Edelson offers, “It also provides something familiar which can reduce anxiety.”
What about the future of other games that place people in this augmented world?
Carmichael explains that augmented reality began as an industrial application in the 1990s to help factory workers visualize as they build, and it has evolved a great deal since then.
“I expect the next generation of students to find more exciting uses for this technology.”
So go ahead, pick up that phone and enter a world that looks strangely similar to what’s right outside your front door.