What is Pokemon?
Briefly, Pokemon (short for “pocket monsters”) was originally a video game released in 1995 from Shatoshi Tajiri. You could play as a human “trainer” who traveled the tiny virtual world collecting weird, adorable “pocket monsters” (Pokemon). You could train, improve the stats of, and battle with them (I hear you, “You mean they catch those adorable little creatures and fight with them?! For fun?!” And the answer is yes, yes they do. But the focus of Pokemon has always been teamwork, friendship, hard work, and determination. Pokemon are sentient, intelligent, and capable of making their own decisions. They can choose whether or not to travel with the trainer, and whether or not they want to battle. And none of them actually die. This stuff was made for kids, but enjoyed by adults.) The game instantly stole hearts and has since become a massive part of international pop and nerd culture. The original game was followed by more video games, a card trading game, graphic novels, tv shows and movies, themed restaurants, hotels, and even theme parks. The franchise was and continues to be wildly popular in Japan (it’s homeland) and the rest of the world.
What is Pokemon Go?
The most recent addition to the Pokemon brand, Pokemon Go is a free app that uses real time maps (via Google Maps) to create a “world” for players to explore and catch Pokemon in. The game was released in the United States on Wednesday, July 6th. While the app is open, it tracks the location of the player, and shows them nearby Pokemon to catch. Pokemon can appear anywhere from right next to the player, to several blocks away. This requires players to actually move to new physical locations to participate in the game. You literally walk along a map of your neighborhood to catch virtual Pokemon. The game uses the player’s camera to create an AR scene (AR stands for augmented reality, meaning it places a made-up, computer animation in a physical space -whatever you’re pointing your camera phone at- in real time to create a really cool image. You can point your phone at the ground, and watch one of the Pokemon growl and jump and make noises). Players can also join one of three teams to represent, giving the game an added competitive aspect. In addition to catching Pokemon, players can travel to Gyms and PokeStops, physical locations on buildings and landmarks where the players can get more supplies and battle for their teams.
In the Pokemon Video Games, players catch and train Pokemon in order to compete at Gyms. Pokemon Gyms, in the Pokemon Universe, are places where trainers can compete and battle for prestige, earn badges, and make their Pokemon bigger, badder, and better. In Pokemon Go, Gyms are attached to free, safe, public places that all players can get to. Thousands of libraries across the country have been made virtual Gyms, and this has already caused an increase of foot traffic for our buildings, attracting teens and young adults who may not typically be library patrons. Personally, I believe this is a huge blessing.
Director of Library/Media Services Ellinwood School/Community Libraries