So I may have run inside the men's restroom today. No, it wasn't like the ladies' room was full and I had an emergency. But I had to go in there... to catch a Pokemon. Because I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was.
Such is the dilemma faced by Pokémon Go players around the world, and now, in Pakistan.
For those who don't know about Pokémon (because you've been sleeping under a rock for the past two decades), Pokémon, short for Pocket Monsters, is a Nintendo franchise that started out as a video game in 1996 and became a popular TV series that shows a world where these creatures live. The players act as 'trainers'; they have to catch the Pokémon and train them for battles against other trainers.
With the launch of Pokémon GO, old and new Pokémon fans like myself are happy because to catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause. We get to finally travel across the land, searching far and wide (okay okay, I'll stop! But admit it, you were singing it too) - and that too literally!
The free-to-play augmented reality game actually has you getting off your seats and running around finding Pokémon. The game transforms your current environment into a fantastical world inhabited by Pokémon. How? It accesses your camera and GPS to place its animated figures in your space.
You're the trainer and your phone is like the glasses that lets you see nearby Pokemon.
I had to have this. I just had to. I grew up on Pokemon! I've played most of the Pokémon games out there, from cards to video games, but this one's different. The draw of Pokémon Go is that it gets me up and moving around, not just sitting in one place with a joypad. Who'd have thought that all you needed to be a Pokemon trainer was a good internet connection and GPS.
The game is simple in terms of gameplay; your phone shows you if there is a Pokemon nearby and you have to go to that location, and your trainer character moves as you do. Once you locate a Pokémon, you try to catch it by throwing a Poké ball with the flick of your finger. The more Pokémon you catch, the larger your collection and the more you level up as a trainer. You can train your Pokémon, have them battle for you and even trade it with other trainers.
Pokémon Go has not officially been launched in Pakistan, but that's only the first of the challenges of playing the game here.
Here's a little news flash. This is Karachi. Not really the most walking-with-your-phone-out friendly place in the world. And since it is augmented reality, your GPS uses landmarks and turns them into Pokestops (where you replenish your weapons, i.e., Poké balls) and gyms (where you train).
Do you know where the nearest pokestop to my place is? A masjid. Yeap. So far, it's either mosques or roundabouts. Considering the security issue, I highly doubt people will be roaming around chowrangis in order to replenish their stock... because... there will be people with guns looking forward to replenish their stock... I did find a way though, just drive by pokestops very slowly.
Another frustration of playing the game in Pakistan? People don't understand why the heck you want to dart into their personal spaces with your phone out. I had a friend begging the manager of a restaurant to let him in the kitchen because there was a Snorlax in there. Another almost went inside Imam Barah because it was showing as a pokestop.
The app also tracks how far you've walked for some tasks, like hatching an egg. That seems rather problematic. A number of female players are annoyed as they have no place to walk around or go out to. I had found a Machamp within my apartments and asked Dad if he wanted to walk with me. He was amused but raised a good question, "What about those kids who don't live in apartment complexes?"
Even for guys, let's be honest, no roundabout is secure enough to have your phone out. A number of things can go wrong from mobile snatchers to security at a VIP movement thinking you're up to something. When a friend joked 'good thing jaywalking isn't an issue here,' it genuinely made me concerned about the risk of kids running across the street carelessly. No Charmander is worth running around Boat Basin, people!
But Pokemon Go also has its own charm of playing it in Pakistan. I have friends traveling to Seaview to find water-based Pokemon (GPS does that too, the Pokemon you find will vary with your location) and a park near a cousin's place is a 'gym' so he has been very social with his friends and family because we all need to train there.
I made a trip to the mall and noticed many kids running around staring at their phones and, knowing what they were up to, I asked them why they came there. More than half said they decided to accompany their family's shopping trip. Good job Pokemon, you're bonding families together!
Once the app officially launches here, I'm sure there will be better locations selected. There is also the issue of proper internet connection because sometimes you'll be on a Pokemon's heels and the glitch will have it get away.
The game needs some work in terms of glitches and more gameplay, but it is an amazing experience. My colleagues definitely got a kick out of me running around the office chasing after a Growleth. I don't mind... I know it's my destiny! Yes... I had to...
Overall, I think it's fun and definitely a unique experience. Nintendo definitely found a way to get some exercise into our routines and I can't wait for the official launch 'cause I gotta catch 'em all!