Pokémon Go brings location-based gaming to the masses
A new phenomenon is happening in the streets of the world’s cities and on the screens of mobile devices. Since the weekend you may have noticed more people than ever stopping in the streets with their phone enraptured in whatever is happening on the screen. What has happened is that gaming, mobile devices, GNSS positioning, augmented reality and the enduring success of the Pokémon franchise have all culminated in the widespread craze that isPokémon Go.
If you think this is just confined to the gaming community, think again. Despite the fact it technically hasn’t even been released yet, ‘Pokémon go’ is about to surpass Twitter in daily active users on Android. In the US, the Android Pokémon Go app is now installed on more devices than Tinder. In just a matter of days Pokemon Go has rocketed to the number one application on both the App Store andGoogle Play Store.
Currently the game is only officially available as part of a soft launch in select areas, including Australia and New Zealand. However, this hasn’t stopped desperate fans using workarounds to play along despite the risk of malware. As a result the servers supporting the game have been overrun, leading to delays in the global release of the game.
Why this is important for Spatial Source readers is the fact that the gameplay that is driving this craze is defined almost entirely by spatial means. As a result, Pokémon Go might be the first in a profitable new era of location-based gaming.
When playing Pokémon Go the majority of the gameplay is spent navigating a 3D map with a modified scale, based on a representation of the real world. Positioning established by each mobile device’s GNSS receiver provides a means to navigate the features of the real world. As you can see from the imagery of the University of Sydney below, at first glance it appears to be based on the rich data of the Open Street Map (OSM), which defines public areas using a number of different layers. However, closer inspection reveals that Pokemon Go appears to have even more detailed data than OSM and Google Maps combined. As The Atlantic explain, where Pokémon Go got its map remains a mystery. The most obvious answer might be that they laboriously, or with the aid of machine learning, crafted their own. To do that on a global scale such as Pokémon Go’s developers have done is no easy feat and the resulting map has potential for navigation, emergency, logistics and security applications.
The map shows the streets, parks and basic features of areas globally, complete with geotagged locations known as PokeStops. There are also places called gyms, normally located at public parks, train stations and even public bars, where you can battle other trainers. To play the game, users travel about this map by navigating the real world in search of Pokémon. These are essentially imaginary monsters, but as we will see, the game is having some very real ramifications.
When players do encounter Pokémon, augmented reality is used to superimpose the creatures onto a real-world backdrop through the use of the phone’s camera. Players then attempt to capture them by throwing pokeballs at them, before heading on to catch more.
Even in the 1990s, The Pokémon Company were no stranger to branching out into different mediums. On the back of the success of the 1996 release ofPokémon Blue and Pokémon Red, they swiftly launched a TV series, card trading game, feature length movies, comic books and toys.
Fast forward to 2016 and many casual gamers like me who haven’t touched Pokémon since the 90s are rediscovering the passion for the game. The Pokémon Company are now taking advantage of the ubiquity of smart phones to mobilise gaming.
This method of gameplay has a lot of people concerned. In addition to the fact this has seen the inherent dangers of using mobile device’s while walking in public go through the roof, there have also been examples of crime.
In Missouiri Armed robbers used the game to lure victims to an isolated trap. According to the police report by Sgt Bill Stringer,
“Using the geolocation feature the robbers were able to anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims.”
There are also serious cyber security risks. If you register for Pokémon Go with your google account, the app can read your emails and view your search history.
In the Northern Territory the police are getting involved whilst including some safety tips of their own. The Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services posted the following on their Facebook page:
“…whilst the Darwin Police Station may feature as a Pokestop, please be advised that you don’t actually have to step inside in order to gain the pokeballs.
It’s also a good idea to look up, away from your phone and both ways before crossing the street. That Sandshrew isn’t going anywhere fast.
Stay safe and catch ’em all!”
The Pokémon Company have issued their own warnings, posting the following on the game’s website:
“For safety’s sake, never play Pokémon GO when you’re on your bike, driving a car, riding a hoverboard, or anything else where you should be paying attention, and of course never wander away from your parents or your group to catch a Pokémon.”
Where Pokémon Go will end up remains a mystery, but it’s safe to say that it is the start of something big. This is by no means the first location-based game. Pokémon Go’s developer, Niantic, previously developed a similar game known as Ingress. With a launch in 2012 Ingress never saw anything like craze that Pokémon Go is now undergoing, even in four years of availability. Now, on the back of an already successful franchise, Pokémon Go can now be considered the tipping point towards the mobilisation of gaming in a what may become a new wave of spatially-enabled play.
To get a better idea the best way is to play it yourself by downloading the app free on either the App Store or Google Play Store. Or, if you are already onto it, here are some tips to secure your Poke-success.
Written by Anthony Wallace http://www.spatialsource.com.au/pokemon-go-brings-location-based-gaming-masses/
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