Like most of North America, I downloaded Pokemon Go a few days ago. And it’s been… interesting. It’s a cute little app (not precisely a “game”, for reasons I’ll describe in a little bit) from the same people who created Ingress. But, unlike Ingress, the purpose of this game is to hunt down cute little animals, look at them in the real world, and then stuff them into tiny balls and force them to fight for your amusement. You know, wholesome kids entertainment.
I’d like to claim I downloaded it because I thought it would be another way to get my 5-year-old excited about going for walks with me, but that’s not true. I downloaded the app because I wanted to catch Pokemon.
Sadly, the app rarely supports that core activity. Pokemon catching.
Some of this may come down to the hardware it’s running on. I’ve got an iPhone 4s, so – in computer technology terms – it may as well be a clay tablet that I write on with a reed pen. But I don’t think it’s just my hardware. Half of my team at work has also downloaded the app, and they have similar problems. The GPS connection drops randomly, and stays dropped for minutes to hours. The app crashes just as you’re about to capture a Pokemon, or if you look at it funny, or on a whim. Then it won’t let you log back in.
It’s not a game. By definition, you can play a game. Most of the Pokemon Go experience is waiting for the app to deign to function, and the rest of it is wondering how long it will function. It’s a game in the same way Russian roulette is a game.
That said, when it works, I have a great time. I spent ten minutes wandering my neighborhood hunting Pokemon before I left for work, and then spent the time walking from my car to my desk stalking more of them. In that time I racked up a Pidgey, a Spearow, and a Rattata. Enormous fun, right up until the app crashed again.
Do I recommend it? Well, I recommend the concept. The actual execution needs work. And I recommend a newer phone with a good service provider. But, if you have all that, it’s a wonderful little excuse to get out and walk.