Maybe this is how the world ends: hordes of people, their heads in their phones, milling around city centers and bringing commerce to a standstill as they search for rarer Pokémon. Pokémon Go is out now, and those who haven't been affected by the charm of the augmented reality game may survive as the seeds of whatever comes after this.
All of that may sound Malthusian, biblical and downright outlandish to the uninitiated. But Pokémon Go has surged to the top of the app charts, chewed through servers and has even caused several accidents just days after it launched in the United States.
What's Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is Niantic's latest augmented reality game for mobile games. It follows a similar formula as Ingress, the developer's previous game, but this latest adventure is filled with the intellectual properties of The Pokémon Company.
The game challenges players to take their mobile devices outside and track down Pokémon characters and items that have been placed in the real world. Pokémon Go relies on mobile GPS to track players' movements within the game world.
When they've reached the coordinates of a Pokémon or item, players can swipe a Poké Ball at a character or tap on an item to collect either one.
Because it's an augmented reality game, players can switch the colorful game map to a live feed from their device's camera. The game will overlay a Meowth or a Pidgey or any other game element on top of what the camera sees.
Players, known as Pokémon trainers, are divided into three teams. Those teams compete for control over a city with each team's victory at local landmarks that have been established as battle "gyms" in the game.
Why Is It So Popular?
Niantic's Ingress, an AR scavenger hunt, still maintains a cult following of players. Pokémon Go builds on the proven formula by introducing IP from the beloved Pokémon franchise.
Pokémon Go has arrived in the United States just as this summer has hit its stride. People pent up in houses and apartments now have one more reason to venture out of their climate-controlled habitations, and it feels good.
It's a new way to see the same old. Before Pokémon Go, many people had way fewer reasons to that smaller park that's farther away or that courtyard in front of that old church. On top of drawing people outside, Pokémon Go is also bringing them together.
Understandably, a lot of people feel way more comfortable burying their faces in their phones and cheering when a Pokémon is caught when they have other people around - throwing on a pair of headphones will at least make you look like someone with a terrible playlist, instead of a bewildered tourist.
Another reason Pokémon Go is so popular is because it's one of those rare opportunities to play content usually reserved for Nintendo devices. Now Pokémon fans can will have an easier time converting friends and family members who don't game.
How Can I Avoid Being Infected?
Despite its early server trouble, which has been game-breaking for many people, old and new Pokémon fans are setting out into a vehicle-filled, obstacle-laden real world to engage in what just might be a long-term hobby for them.
While it's an interesting game that may just be a sketch of what Niantic and The Pokémon Company envision, players are cautioned not to get hooked while in public, chasing down Pokémon that pop up as they walk down intersections and the side of the road — lest they meet an accident.
Now, just for fun: here's how you can keep your loved ones safe from the Pokémon Go craze:
1. Switch to a feature phone, one in which touch screens and cameras are features.
2. Clear your browser history and deny all knowledge of the game.
3. Load your mobile device's storage space with cute cat pics instead.
4. Insist that Ingress is waaaaay better (no, really) and was at it first.