By Jacob Toman
This week, one of the more highly anticipated mobile games of the year was released to the public: Pokémon Go.
An augmented reality game, Pokémon Go allows mobile gamers (gamers who play via their cell phones) to travel to real world destinations and experience the world of Pokémon through the screen of their handheld device.
Typically at Gospel & Gaming we spend a significant amount of time playing a game before releasing any sort of opinions or content. We believe that authors and creators (developers, writers, artists) deserve to have their work played through thoroughly prior to making any judgements.
In light of the policy we have at Gospel & Gaming, this isn’t a review piece of Pokémon Go, but rather is a quick guide for parents and those who are curious about this particular augmented reality game, and the potential opportunities and dangers the game presents.
Here are some concerns I have with Pokémon Go:
It’s dangerous to go alone!
There is a famous image from the Legend of Zelda series in which a young boy named Link (the main protagonist of the series) is equipped with a sword for the quest set before him. Pokémon Go encourages users to get outside, explore, get curious about their surrounding neighborhood and city. This can be a great thing! Too often the complaint arises surrounding gamers: “All they want to do its stay inside; back in my day we played outdoors till the streetlights came on!” If you’re anything like me, you did play outdoors till the streetlights came on. I was fortunate enough to have a dad who had a huge upright construction lamp, so sometimes the neighborhood kids would stay out on my basketball hoop even after the street lights went out!
Pokémon Go encourages gamers to experience creation beyond the digital realm by physically moving throughout the world God has made. On the one hand this is awesome; as a grown man I can take Pokémon Go with me when I’m traveling on mission trips, and I can take my kids to the park and let them catch new Pokémon by running around in the great outdoors. On the other hand, this is a concern for underage users. There is a certain level of responsibility and trust that has to be earned to let someone simply roam about trying to catch new Pokémon, battle other trainers, or train at the local Pokémon Gym. My own 4 year old daughter and I had a conversation this morning about our 3 rules for playing Pokémon Go:
- You have to play Pokémon Go on Mommy’s or Daddy’s phone - We don’t want her getting used to playing on other people’s phones and allow that to become an attraction for danger.
- You have to play Pokémon Go with Mommy or Daddy - We love spending time with our kids and going outdoors; we see this augmented mobile game as an opportunity to share an enthusiasm for Pokémon, the outdoors, and family time.
- You can’t play Pokémon Go in the car - Memes are already being shared around the internet about car accidents happening because someone was playing while driving. This is absurd! We all can agree - gamer or non gamer - that driving is the top priority when you take the seat as a driver.
Pokémon Go requires an internet connection at all times to play. There are numerous opportunities and concerns that accompany a game that always needs to be connected to the internet to play. Pokémon Go isn’t the first mobile game to require internet connection for gameplay and shouldn’t be shunned because of this requirement. However, there are a few potential opportunities and dangers that arise with this always-online component of Pokémon Go.
Playing Pokémon Go uses data on your phone, so you may want to consider changes to your current plan. There are numerous ways to set limits on data usage, ranging from shutting off mobile data entirely, to receiving alerts when certain thresholds of data usage are reached. I highly recommend that you use any of the available systems provided through your mobile carrier, or through an app that tracks your mobile devices mobile data. Want to avoid the headache of an unexpected charge on your bill? Want to pre-empt responsible time management and cell phone use by your teen/pre-teen? Use the tools available through mobile data management!
Pokémon Go uses it’s constant connection to the internet to show your character in a digital map overlay of your current position. In the above displayed picture, my character is represented in a building that is my house. You can count the houses in the augmented app, and they are the same number and size to the houses around me now. The very real park that is just north of my home office is less than a block away, and has a few landmarks to check out. There have already been several discussions happening within text-based communities (Reddit, forums, and twitch) about people meeting strangers by playing Pokémon Go. I think this is both an awesome opportunity and a potential danger. Be aware that when your teen/pre-teen says “I’m going to go to my friend's house and play Pokémon Go” that it is a game that encourages exploration, curiosity, and travel.
To close, here are a few general tips & tricks for augmented reality games:
- The game is going to quickly use your battery! Bring a charger with you!
- Don’t trespass! Stay on public sidewalks, parks, walkways, etc.
- Stay hydrated! The summer is an awesome time to be outside, and you can stay outside longer by maintaining physical health through lots of water.
- If your game server keeps resetting, remember the game just launched. It has the Pokémon brand, and will for at least the initial interest be overwhelmed with users.