POKÉMON GO: BEST GAME OF 2016

The summer of 2016 will go down in history as the summer of Pokémon GO.

Gangtok

I was returning home from work. It was a pleasant evening, although I don’t remember that much about the weather in particular because I was busy playing Pokémon GO. With my eyes glued to the phone screen and Morrissey of “The Smiths” singing “Panic on the streets of London, Panic on the streets of Birmingham…” in my ears, I was searching for Pokémons. It’s not hard to spot a Pokémon GO player in the crowd. Eyes fixed on their phones they will most likely also be waving their phones in the air searching for the mobile network signal.

“Da, tapai kunchai level ma hunu huncha?” asked a chubby kid as I was walking down the wet streets of Tadong. “Mo tah level five ma chu tah,” I said and showed him my Pokédex and my army of Pokémons.

“Ambo, her tah dada tah level 05 ma raicha,” he said to his friend who was also swinging his phone from one end to another trying to spy a Pokémon. “Chya, her na caterpie matrai k saro paako,” the chubby kid’s friend complained as he gazed into my phone screen in amazement.

This is what a phenomenon looks like. Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game for smartphones that blends the real and digital worlds. The game developed by Niantic Labs in U.S was officially launched in July, 2016 and has gone on to become the best-selling game of all times. In this augmented reality game, players capture virtual characters mapped to real-world locations to engage in virtual gym-battles. According to Apple, the game had more downloads in its first week than any other app in history!

Pokémon GO is not an overnight sensation that came out of nowhere. It is based on the original Pokémon franchise which turned 20 this year. Initially the franchise started out as a pair of Game Boy games which was released in Japan by Nintendo in the February of 1996. Shortly after it was released, the franchise extended to comics, cartoon series and several video games, becoming the second biggest franchise just behind Super Mario. Eventually, the Poké-fever (as I like to call it) died but the series never really went away. The popular cartoon series still airs on Hungama channel. Kids still vouch for the main protagonist Ash and his friends Misty and Brock. Pikachu, the electric Pokémon and mascot of the franchise, has remained recognizable among kids worldwide and the main game series, still one of the best-sellers of Nintendo is entering its seventh generation.

One of the main reasons the game exploded is Social Media and its influential visual graphics like photos, memes and videos. People posted pictures of themselves playing Pokémon in their offices and homes. Even Justin Bieber was spotted playing Pokémon GO at Central Park in New York. Augmented reality incorporated in the game shows Pokémon in real-world rather than simply seeing it standing on a green field. Pokémons are superimposed on a live image from our camera, bringing the creatures out of the game and into the real world.

Pokémon GO is however yet to be officially launched in India. But the delayed launch did not stop eager fans from laying their hands on the game and hunt for Pokémons. Shortly after the game was launched in the U.S, India joined in the Pokémon hunt too. With friendly Poké-hunt contests held in Delhi, the nation’s capital we just could not get enough of the game. Sikkim also enjoyed a short Poké-fever with players from all over the capital city of Gangtok gathering at MG Marg for gym battles and Pokémon hunts. There were Poké-stops at M.G Marg, Deorali and some of the players became so good that they even had their own gyms installed at Tenzing & Tenzing and Denzong Cinema Hall.

Pokémon GO stopped working after its one-week run here at Sikkim.

“I think the reason it stopped working must be the fact that it’s still not officially launched in India yet,” a devastated fan rants on Facebook.” “I was just getting a hang of it,” another anguished fan says. Rumor-mills strongly speculate that the game might find its way to India around September this year. “I was playing Pokémon GO pretty hardcore after I found it through a friend,” says Passang, a college student. “I had a bunch of 250+ CP Pokémons and had won gym battles until it decided to stop working,” says another disappointed player. “It’s time to get back to Clash of Clans,” quips Lendup another player whom I asked about how he felt when the game stopped working.

Apart from being fun and unique, the game also grabbed the attention of fitness enthusiasts worldwide, as the game requires the players to walk around and explore their surroundings to catch Pokémons. It received praise from users as the game got players on their feet and walking around outside, breaking the stereotype of the over-weight and bespectacled video game addict. “One time, my friends and I walked 5kms from Tadong to M.G Marg catching Pokémons and honestly, it was good exercise too,” Lendup said. It was a raging but short-lived phenomenon here in Sikkim. I could not walk down a street in Gangtok without a completely engrossed gamer bumping into me, eyes fixed on the Pokémons on their smartphones. If the rumor mills are true and the game is in fact launching next month we are eagerly waiting for the game to arrive. However, for now the dream of “Catching them all” has to wait.