Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Who is Pokemon? : Blog # 274

Who is Pokemon?

Unless you have been living under a rock or on a short lived social media detox mission, chances are you would have heard of the ‘Pokémon Go’ madness which is taking the world by storm. Here is an attempt to tell you in very simple terms what the hoopla is all about. I am neither a gamer nor a coder so much so that I need to seek help to know the RAM capability of my phone. So this is as layman as it gets. Also, ‘Mon’ is an endearing term for a little boy in Malayalam. Further, ‘Poke’ roughly translates to a ‘hopeless person’. For a small while, I thought Pokémon is the evil twin brother of Tintu Mon!!!

Pokemon, Pokemon Go, Gaming, GamesTo begin with, Pokémon Go is an Augmented Reality (AR) mobile based game. AR is the technology in which whatever you view infront of you is slightly modified and shown on your screen. It alters (enhances or diminishes) the way in which you see a certain visual. The game is developed by a company called Niantic which is founded by John Hanke. Now starts the interesting part of how the game came about. John was a Google veteran who used to work on Google Earth and Google Maps. Talk of connecting the dots and so beautifully at that!

Now how to play the game? One has to explore the real world. For once, this isn’t a game which will lock us down to the confines of a 4 inch screen. One needs to go out to play the game. We should walk outside, look for, find and catch Pokémon outside your home/office in a public place using our phone’s screen and camera. We can also collect items at Poke stops and battle at gyms to conquer them. If we do all of these, we get experience points and once we have enough points, we get a level up. Pokémon currency are called Poke coins. Once we reach level 5, we get different teams – red, yellow or blue. The game proceeds such.

It is fascinating to know how the places where Pokémon appears at the public places were arrived at. There was a game called ‘Ingress’ which is a sort of a predecessor to Pokémon Go. People who played that game in a way made a huge databank of locations available which was used to decide the Pokémon appearance locations. In addition to this, historical markers, public art works and Geo – tagged photos from Google maps were used to arrive at places which might interest a large number of people.

Now, there are different types of Pokémon’s. How they appear at different locations is based on what kind of habitat they use. For instance, they used the geographic markers on google maps to identify what kind of area it was. If it is a water body, only certain type of Pokémon will appear near those places. They also looked at Climate, Vegetation, Soil and rock types of places and assigned the Pokémons which could inhabit such places.

Is Pokémon going to be just a flash in the pan? The founders are quite serious to not let that happen. They are planning to extend the game with addition of more experiences – by building capability to create lure modules to attract Pokémons, more cooperation between players, trading etc. They are expecting the game to become more popular once goggles with inbuilt AR capability becomes an affordable technology. 

Will Pokemon become the world's Mon? Let's wait and see :)