Next week, we’ll get into some advanced concepts in Pokémon Go, like tracking Pokémon, evolving Pokémon and other systems.
So, why is this fun?
As I’ve mentioned before, the concept of fun is subjective. Everyone finds different actions fun in different games. From what I can see, there are two primary kinds of fun explored in Pokémon Go.
- Catching all 150 Pokémon
- The Gym Battle
Catching all 150 Pokémon
Honestly, this is a combination of simple intuitive mechanics built for mobile phones, adorable creatures, and a human desire to collect things. In mobile game design, simplicity is king. The mechanic of tapping Pokémon, and then catching them, takes very little thought to get started. Every mobile user is familiar with tapping and flicking because we use it in functionalities like surfing the net. The concept of “I flick this ball and it will fly the direction I flick” allows older individuals to enjoy it as well. It’s something they would understand in real life unlike the concept of leveling up in Dark Souls. Ultimately, I think it is that incredibly tense moment where the poké ball is shaking and the player is holding their breath waiting to see if they caught the Pokémon that is the most interesting. It’s an excellent balance of tension to keep the player catching Pokémon.
As far as the adorable creatures go, it’s the IP. Pokémon is a juggernaut, which has been around for 20+ years. A similar game would not be nearly this successful if it didn’t have them attached (See Ingress). For my particular generation, Pokémon in the real world has been a dream since we were all kids. Additionally, the mobile phone install base is HUGE! Not to mention the game is free. There is very little stopping people from trying out this game. Hell, they didn’t even have to advertise the game. It stealth released and all the news outlets picked it up. That shows the power of the Pokémon IP.
Then there is the exploration and social media photo sharing. We saw the power of photo sharing in games with Nintendo's previous app, Miitomo. This allows players to share their experiences and draw in additional players on social media. Niantic successfully leverages the outside world as their MMO Pokémon world. (More on that can be found HERE ) It’s actually quite clever because people are so shut in nowadays that using the actual world as their environment to explore just makes sense. This is the same appeal gamers get from exploring World of Warcraft or Destiny. What’s going to be around the next corner? A Lapras? A Dragonite? Nope, just another damn Pidgey.
Finally, there is the collection aspect. Going back to the original 150 Pokémon was an excellent choice because catching them all seems very doable. This is unlike the current version of Pokémon, which no longer advertises “Gotta Catch Em All” for the 3DS games. Had they included all the current Pokémon it would have been too much for players and the tug to collect them all wouldn't be as strong, due to them being overwhelmed.
So how about the gym battles?
The gym battles are part of a larger turf war across the country. Like mentioned before, when a player takes over a gym it changes to their color. Someone who lives nearby might want to hold that gym simply because it is close or a business they enjoy visiting. But Niantic has created a sort of tug-of-war between the three teams. They’ve had years to refine this style of battling across the world due to their previous game Ingress.
I would say the actual battles are fun, but outside of the actual preparation, they just involve the player tapping on the screen as quickly as possible until they win. It’s nearly impossible for a player to hold down a gym for more than a few minutes due to how simple the combat system is. Making it nearly impossible to actually obtain a decent amount of coins from them. The other issue is that there is no end to the fight. There is no winning in Pokémon GO. There is no credits rolling or goal for the player outside of catching all of them. Which, as of right now is impossible because we don’t know how to get Mew-two or the legendary birds. It just kinda goes on until we burn out. While they advertised the game to have trading and public events none of that is in the game. It doesn’t even quite qualify as a beta because it’s not feature complete. The experience as a whole feels incredibly shallow. With that said, I plan on continuing to attempt to catch them all when the servers are actually working. In my free time enjoy the simple mechanics, nostalgia, and catching the old Pokémon I grew up with.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s look into the basics of Pokémon Go. Next week, we’ll be diving deep into the advanced mechanics of the game. We’ll also be getting really technical about leveling up, Pokémon hunting, and we’ll talk about how the app brings people together.
I’ll see you guys next week,
P.S. GO TEAM MYSTIC! (Sorry, couldn’t resist)