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Pokémon Go broke a barrier for normals; Bitternet silenced

Pikachu

2 definitions you need for this post. I coined “Bitternet” … because someone had to name that phenomenon.

nor·mal:

(noun) – usually in plural form “normals”

\ˈnr-məl\

A human in a society who remains mostly unaffected by or not exposed to any particular trend in technology/technology’s subset of social, online sharing or gaming; not an early adopter, but not necessarily an anti-technology “luddite” <the normals don’t care about infosec>

Bitternet: 

(noun) singular

\ˈbi-tər-net\

an online, electronic communications network of humans who react to any new development, post, or idea with immediate, harshly reproachful, biting, resentful, and summarily negative judgments. <the Philadelphia Bitternet will have a field day with the new bus schedules>

Boo-hoo, Bitternet! Pokémon Go won.

Pokémon Go is the first augmented reality (AR) massive game to be mass-adopted by normals. In an article posted on Tech Crunch today entitled “The Pokémon Go influence on new tech” Dr. Roger Smith, Chief Technical Officer of Disney property The Nicholson Center at Florida Hospital, surmises that the game has taken its place in history as the harbinger of a new frontier: “Suddenly everyone understands what ‘augmented reality’ means and how an artificial digital world can be mapped onto the real physical world,” Dr. Smith writes.

This is kind of a big deal.

The Bitternet was confined to two weeks at most. The overwhelming popularity of the game with normals silenced the knee-jerk vitriol in record time. Gaming in any sense is usually met with a fierce and constantly-fired up Bitternet, causing gaming and gaming issues to be viewed as fringe or niche subjects. But not with Pokemon Go, and many experts are scrambling to understand why.

I don’t know what to tell them other than: It’s time. AR is here to stay, albeit for a while in its current, very simple form. Even my spouse, who is (mostly) a normal (he’s been a video gamer and poker player for decades but not a social web person at all), admitted he’d play a Harry Potter version of Pokémon Go. Trust me, that’s groundbreaking. Something has changed, and it has changed for good.

Ingress, the early, user-populated version of Pokémon Go

I played Ingress, the previous AR game by Pokémon Go creator Niantic. Ingress is an extensive user-populated network of portals (the grid used for Pokémon Go – it was filled with suggestions for portals by users). Niantic made the game compelling by constructing characters, background information, and complex and regularly-updated story line that allowed players to truly immerse themselves in the game. Local and global communities naturally popped up. Niantic programmed in massive meetup events. Human connection became the key feature of the game. The game still rages on with a dedicated userbase. (iPhone battery usage was an issue for me, as well as the difficulty of leveling up. Ingress didn’t keep my attention as a result. But I did love it, and am considering going back to it now that the battery issue is improved.)

Ingress was definitely designed for gamers, though. The science fiction story one needs to adopt to enjoy the game is geared toward fans of the genre and gamers. Pokémon Go, on the other hand, is a Disney-ification of Ingress; it’s a game for everyone. The first several levels are quite easy and require little to no skill.

The key factor here, though, is the decidedly NON-gaming, NON-scifi feel of the play. Where Ingress is dark and futuristic, Pokémon Go is cartoonish and bright. Ingress contains a plot point that implies danger to humanity/our way of life. Pokémon has cute monsters who battle each other for, basically, the entertainment of humans.

PokéMOMs (do I really need a definition for this?) know the game is something they can do with their kids. Tweens to young adults aren’t turned off by the presence of those Pokémoms out at the gyms, battling away with their amped-up Lapras ‘mons. Even the Bitternet (my term for the knee-jerk, mass complainers on social sites, see definition above) has dialed down their hate, being forced into submission by the sheer number of players and advocates.

What the Bitternet should really use their evil powers for

In the TC article, Dr. Smith goes on to postulate how businesses can use augmented reality games. Being a Disney employee (or, so I assume by Florida Hospital being located in Celebration, Florida, a Disney property), Dr. Smith naturally cites Disney’s in-park game where players can pursue Disney characters (which are overlaid onto a phone’s camera view). “The entertainment giant can decide when and where these virtual characters appear, contributing to crowd control, restaurant business, gift purchases and a richer experience in the theme park,” Dr. Smith writes.

Richer experience in the theme park” I take to mean, richer for Disney. All Mickey has to do is lead a kid into a store and point at something and say “BUY THIS FOR MORE MICKEY POINTS!” I’m sure that isn’t the meaning the writer intended, but it sure is a revealing Freudian slip, isn’t it?

All of the Bitternet’s “critical eye” (more like cynical but I’m trying to be polite) could be useful when it comes to business and AR games. We could use a check and balance on all things commercial. AR games are meant to enhance personal connection, not the wallets of megacorporations. Reminding the world of that will be a constant battle no Pokémon can win alone. We’ll need everyone to pitch in to keep gaming for normals fun, pro-connection and safe for our own wallets.

_____________________

Photo Credit: Me. That’s a screenshot of the famous Pokémon I caught yesterday, thanks to my husband’s help as he drove me a few feet away from the direction we were supposed to go in to look for this Pikachu.

Definitions were based on Merriam-Webster.com’s definitions (of various words). The yearly subscription to the site’s Unabridged Dictionary is the best money a writer can spend.

 

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