Last weekend, America set aside its troubles for a moment to go out into the world accompanied by the planet’s hottest app, Pokémon Go, and then come up with searing-hot think pieces about it: sometimes because there was something to say, and sometimes because there were quotas to hit. It all blurred together in a horrifying sequence of wriggling Pokéflesh. Here are some highlights.
Synopsis: Instead of asking players to choose between male and female genders, the game asks players to choose a “style.”
Approximate temperature of the take: Lukewarm
Is it worth reading? Sure! It’ll only take you about a minute.
Synopsis: Pokémon Go’s success is an object lesson in the failure of the technology industry to be an engine for broad economic growth.
Approximate temperature of the take: Nuclear-hot. But it’s meant to be; the headline comes from a joke-y Awl piece about Pokémon Go hot takes.
The success of Pokémon Go points to two big areas where policymakers ought to change their approach.
One is to relax housing policy to allow more people to move to areas where high-tech products are made. While the average resident of Kansas City or Baltimore might not have the skills to create the next great mobile game, he or she probably could find work as a schoolteacher, nurse, or construction worker in San Francisco or New York — but only if he or she is allowed to live within commuting distance of technology workers.
Is it worth reading? Actually … yes.
Synopsis: Pokémon Go is successful because it’s like Snapchat, gamifies new locations, and inaugurates players into a “secret society.”
Approximate temperature of the take: Cold.
Pokémon Go requires its users to have the app open and in-use in order for you to catch Pokémon, gain experience, etc. You can’t turn on notifications and be notified when a Pokémon is in your area, that ruins the magic. By occupying the entirety of a user’s screen and requiring usage, users are more actively engaged with the app and have it open while walking around in public areas. Having the app consistently open and engaging with it increases the chances of you using it around others, thus prompting more people to learn about the app.
Is it worth reading? If you are the kind of person who wants to read in-depth app analysis, you have probably already read it.
Synopsis: I don’t like the popular thing.
Approximate temperature of the take: Warm to the touch
This is all well and good, of course, but the hype glosses over something that gives me pause: With an app such as Pokémon Go, we’ve essentially gamified such basic pursuits as going outside, talking to strangers and visiting national monuments. These are activities we’ve long undertaken on their own merits. But everything must be digitally augmented now; no value is inherent.
Is it worth reading? The piece is more thoughtful than its headline implies, but chances are you’ve already heard a similar rant from a friend this week.
Synopsis: Pokémon Go is good but it’s also a capitalistic pursuit wringing money out of a popular franchise.
Approximate temperature of the take: Could potentially start a fire.
Even Google couldn’t make Ingress work without reskinning it as Pokémon. And while Pokémon is popular and basically harmless, the alternate reality it offers is still that of a branded, licensed, kiddie cock-fighting fantasy. Even if paranoia fiction is aesthetically facile and retrograde, and even if location-based entertainment need not be serious and political, there’s still something fundamentally revolting about celebrating the Pokémonization of the globe as the ultimate realization of the merged social and technological potential of modern life.
Is it worth reading? It’s by-the-numbers, but if you want an appropriately geeky takedown, this is your best bet.
Synopsis: Pokémon Go is an okay game but a great social network.
Approximate temperature of the take: Tepid, at best.
That nostalgia creates a built-in audience eager for an IRL Pokémon experience. And it’s here that Pokémon Go is most interesting. Go represents the most widely adopted example yet of augmented reality, a much-hyped technology that uses phones and other viewers to add a layer of computer-generated imagery and information on top of the world around you. While AR (and its cousin VR) are in early stages, it can be hard to get a sense of what they’d look like and how they’d be used when adopted widely. By launching with an already-enormous audience, Pokémon Go gives us a glimpse of what mass adoption of augmented reality looks like in practice.
Is it worth reading? [squints at cue cards] Uh … yes. Absolutely. Definitely. Yes.
Synopsis: The co-creator of Farmville (remember Farmville?) argues that Pokémon Go needs to change up a few things if it wants to keep players around.
Approximate temperature of the take: Medium.
Even if most players quit after a short period of time, the Pokémon IP and PvP mechanics (battling for gyms) will retain a hardcore set of paying users similar to other PvP based games like Game of War and Clash of Clans. As long as the developers continue to update and keep the game somewhat fresh, it should monetize very well for multiple years.
Is it worth reading? Have you been thinking, I wonder what the Farmville guy is thinking about Pokémon Go? Oh, you were? Well, here you go.
Synopsis: The creator of Ultima Online argues that real life is basically just a game, if you have a phone.
Approximate temperature of the take: You need to blow on it before eating.
Don’t get me wrong. The social element here is powerful. Pokémon GO has the best emote system available: the human body. It has the most elegant and all-consuming chat system ever: smartphones for tells and local voice with full presence for local chat. It has the most detailed and highly simulated game map ever, thanks to the real world. We are seeing amazing social activity happening, amazing bursts of joy, across the world.
Is it worth reading? Actually, yes!
Synopsis: People are nuts about Pokémon.
Approximate temperature of the take: Room temperature.
And then there’s the potential for real, actual injury as a result of being too focused on the game. Ingress has been involved in an actual, recorded death. Plenty of people have already reported injury via social media, and lots have posted pictures while actually driving (and that they would even share that they’ve done that is super insane). Certainly, some of this is being sensationalized for clicks, but behind it there is a real potential for injury – which most would forego, except of course there’s Pokémon to be caught.
Is it worth reading? This is a levelheaded, common-sense argument that’s probably correct. Pass.
Synopsis: Pokémon Go but instead it’s Ghostbusters.
Approximate temperature of the take: Could use some time in the microwave.
The new Ghostbusters is hitting theaters this weekend and it is coming with plenty of attention, both good and bad. Ghostbusters seems perfectly suited for a game with the same formula of Pokémon Go. Players could use their phones to locate ghosts and trap them with a combination of the proton pack and ghost traps.
Is it worth reading? No, but take a moment to acknowledge the inspiring brazenness of the SEO grab.
Synopsis: Pokémon Go and Hamilton are both popular.
Approximate temperature of the take: Core of the earth.
Is it worth reading? The piece is a joke, but clicking through you get the uncomfortable sensation of Evel Knievel successfully landing a stunt and realizing you actually wanted to see him be horribly maimed.
Synopsis: Not playing Pokémon Go is a revolutionary act.
Approximate temperature of the take: Mercury orbit.
The map of your neighborhood you see when you play the game is a GPS map, something originally designed to help steer guided missiles. It’s the Google map, its deathly grey replaced by a virulent green that’s just as blanketing and all-consuming with or without some fluffy clouds in the upper screen. Buildings show up as blank, squat oblongs. This could be a skyscraper or a hovel, it makes no difference. The game casts its eye over the world from a military satellite far up in outer space, utterly indifferent to sensuous experience, utterly foreign to human life.
Is it worth reading? Sometimes, you gotta fly close to the sun.