Pokémon Go(es) To Singapore - The Mind Of A Hunter

With Pokémon Go going strong in Singapore, especially with it being launched on the weekend before National Day (a public holiday), Pokéhunters have been plying the streets in search of their favourite digital creatures.

So what exactly makes it so attention-absorbing? Why do people walk with phones in their faces (more than they normally do)? 

I decided to find out by becoming a Pokéhunter myself and I can tell you straight up that it was an interesting experience. As mentioned in my previous post, I was never interested, much less a fan of the Pokémon series. No offense to the fans, it's just that I didn't see the appeal.

Pokémon Go, however, isn't entirely branded as a typical Pokémon game. The melding of real-world locations, augmented reality (though I never turned the camera on) and a well-thought-out and well-executed delivery made it a pioneer in what will likely soon become a new branch of gaming.

When I played the game, I found myself constantly wondering about two questions:

1) What Pokémon will I encounter next?

2) Where do I get those elusive Pokémon that I don't have yet?

From the first question came a series of other related thoughts:

1a) Let's keep the game open (with the screen blacked out using the Battery Saver option) so I can be alerted of the next spawn in the area.

1b) Oh! I'm near a Pokéstop. Let's go get some free stuff. (This is when navigating towards the stop requires me to constantly look at the screen, unless I am familiar with the area. It's also necessary on a bus or in a car, which can pass stops before stuff can be collected. Also, this thought becomes more urgent when I run low on Pokéballs. I've never run out, though. Yet.)

1c) There's a lure! Need to get there before it runs out. (This is essentially a combination of 1a and 1b)

From these thoughts, it isn't difficult to see why players of the game glue their eyes to their screens. Thought 1a is particularly absorbing because the capture of a Pokémon, particularly one that you've never caught before, gives the hunter a feeling of great satisfaction (especially if it's rare).

The reward is both intrinsic (satisfaction at a skilled throw of a Pokéball, getting the catch in one try, or finding a rare Pokémon) and extrinsic (a new Pokémon, along with resources for future upgrades). The best part is, there are still many more to catch, so the rewards are available for the foreseeable future, spurring the player on.

Related to the second question are these thoughts:

2a) Let me ask my friends, fellow hunters where they got their rare catches. Or, I could look it up on the internet.

2b) Let's join a hunt with others to get them. If we scan a larger area, we may find it more easily. (The GPS can place two people who are walking side by side in real life a little further apart on the map than they really are. This allows the scanning of more area at a time.)

These seem to encourage a more social way of playing the game. You hope that you can get answers from someone, and that others are having difficulty finding the elusive ones as well, so you will all be in the same boat, so to speak.

To get the elusive Pokémon, my thoughts eventually return to question 1 once I figure out where I might be able to find the missing ones from my Pokédex - an index of all the Pokémon that can be caught in the game.

All in all, the game is sufficiently rewarding to keep playing, not too difficult, so there is a low barrier of entry, and there is a real-life social aspect as opposed to the cyber-social interactions of most other games today. 

The creators have brought something fresh and new to the market and consumers, hungry for something other than the 'same old thing, just in different packaging' are clambering all over it. This is something very different, something exciting, something that will spark new industries and products in the near future. As Seth Godin would say, this is a Purple Cow.

Whether you like the game or not, you can be sure that this will have a large impact on many aspects of everyday life. Too early to say? No, it has already begun.

This may be my favourite-looking one. I mean, a unicorn with flames? Come on. How much more mythical can it get?

This may be my favourite-looking one. I mean, a unicorn with flames? Come on. How much more mythical can it get?



Pokémon Go(es) To Singapore - Sights And Sounds

Just this weekend, Pokémon Go was launched in Singapore and many of our surrounding ASEAN nations.

Facebook feeds have been flooded with Pokéfans' postings of their initial catches as well as amused (and disgruntled) bystanders' photos of Pokémon hunters gathering in seemingly odd locations in large groups.

Though I grew up during the Pokémon era, I never warmed towards it. I never watched the cartoons, played the games or bothered with it. All I was familiar with (due to inescapable intensive marketing) was perhaps the most famous of all Pokémon - Pikachu. Even then, I found its limited vocabulary rather more annoying than adorable.

I could have easily dismissed this new game as an attempt at reviving a dying franchise, or simply the game's developers trying to make money out of nothing from undiscerning fans. Its explosive popularity was also something that bothered me. I have found that I tend to stay away from over-popular products, perhaps in aid of my aversion towards noisy queues and rabid enthusiasts.

However, I decided to just give it a go (no pun intended). After all, someone once said that to understand a man, you have to walk a mile in his shoes.

I wanted to know what the craze was all about and why people can't seem to put their phones down. A little psychological analysis was in order and since I couldn't interview fans (nor would they bother giving me any time, as they'll be busy catching their digital creatures), I figured that I would simply play the game and analyse my responses to it.

At first glance, the game seemed straightforward enough:

1) Pick up Pokéballs from Pokéstops, which are often landmarks or places of interest.

2) Search for wild Pokémon.

3) Throw Pokéballs at Pokémon to try and capture it.

There are, of course, many more aspects to the game, but this is the most important one. Without capturing wild Pokémon, a trainer (that's the player) could not advance in level or ever gain enough powerful allies to do battle in gyms (also usually places of interest or important buildings). He/she would also be unable to get enough resources to upgrade or 'evolve' their Pokémon.

Having interacted with a number of Pokémon Go players, I noticed a few types:

1) Collect 'em all types

These hunters just want to complete their collection. They aren't particularly interested in taking over gyms of competing. It's more of a personal achievement for them. Many players fall under this category.

2) The PvP types

These are the ones who love to compare with other players, always desire to upgrade their Pokémon or capture better ones. They constantly aspire to take over gyms and enjoy the player vs. player (PvP) aspects of the game. 

3) Casual types

These players are just playing for kicks. They aren't particularly into the game or want to go hunting for hours. They whip out the game as and when they feel like it and just want to have a little fun. The social aspect of the game is more important to them than the actual game itself.

Within each type, there are some sub-categories, of course, and these are gamer types that exist in almost any game.

While I was out hunting, though I was often in public transport going from place to place over the weekend for non-Pokémon-Go-related activities, I found avid fans of the game almost everywhere. They were, as reported in news articles, staring down at their phones, occasionally stopping in their tracks and sometimes squealing names of Pokémon they found. It was rather amusing to witness.

At Pokéstops with lures, I saw crowds of people milling around, engaged in their phones. My only concern at these places was that many of them just stood in the middle of the walkway or blocked the route with their bicycles/scooters. This was rather inconsiderate. At least step aside so other people can pass.

Naturally, the media seized upon this opportunity to highlight these negative behaviours, along with those of people walking along the streets, sometimes late at night, oblivious to their surroundings, some not even bothering to watch for vehicles properly, others trespassing on private property.

I did witness behaviour like this, though not the trespassing. I might even have been guilty of a couple of counts of obstruction myself.

But I also saw the positive side of the game. It got people to go outdoors, friends (even strangers sometimes) to meet up and talk to each other in real life (instead of just over the phone and social media), families to go on walks and spend time together, hunters helping each other to spot the more elusive creatures.

It wasn't as bad as the media painted it to be. Sure, it looked terrible from a bystander's point of view. I even heard real-life comments from non-players along the lines of 'This is crazy! Look at all these <insert adjective here> people!' and 'I can't believe this is happening to our society.'

I would have been one of those bystanders and possibly made comments like that, but I decided to learn more about it as an insider instead of an outsider. In my next post, I'll break down the mental processes that I went through while I played the game and why I think the game is so immensely successful.

Until my next post, Happy Hunting!

Yes, I know you can get it at the start, but I didn't want to run around for the first 10 minutes of playing the game just to avoid the initial 3.

Yes, I know you can get it at the start, but I didn't want to run around for the first 10 minutes of playing the game just to avoid the initial 3.