Hi, I’m David. I’m 22 years old, and I don’t like Pokemon…
Okay, that’s slightly unfair. I’ve never actively disliked Pokemon. I played the first gen games and watched the anime way back when, and while I can’t exactly remember what my feelings towards them were, I guess I must’ve found them okay. However, despite this franchise being perhaps the object of my generation’s nostalgia, I’ve never had the urge to revisit it since. While I see the core appeal in theory, for whatever reason it’s just never stuck with me like it has obviously stuck with so many my age.
I mention my age, because I don’t want to give anyone the false impression that I’m some kind of bitter Gen-X man-child, whining about how the new popular thing is dumb and for babies while unironically wearing a G1 Optimus Prime T-shirt. While it’s very easy to feel left out when you’re not on board with whatever the new popular thing is (or more accurately, whatever the next 20 year old franchise now preying on the disposable income of those who grew up with it is), I want to at least try to contribute more to the discussion surrounding Pokemon: GO than yet another takedown piece about how the franchise basically promotes cockfighting or whatever…
Don’t get me wrong though, those accusations are true, and no amount of ‘Butbutbut Ash and Pikachu are the bestest friends!’ on the part of the show is ever going to refute that (Life lesson: People who run hound pits in real life are not dog-lovers), but regardless, the comparison is old and boring.
Besides, even if I don’t care for the subject matter, I cannot help but respect the sheer scale of popularity that GO, or Jackpot, as it is known in the child-molester community (Am I being edgy enough yet?), has achieved in so short a time. The new app, that brings Pokemon onto smartphones and into the world of augmented reality, where players explore the great outdoors to find the little monsters, has only been on a staggered worldwide release for the past week, is still suffering from crippling server issues in many places, and yet has already ensnared the kind of obsessive following that crack dealers can only dream of. At time of writing, the app already has more users than Tinder and Facebook Messenger, is gaining on Twitter, and has caused the value of Nintendo stock to rise by 25%! Okay, nobody should be shocked that Pokemon finally going multi-platform was going to produce a hit, but still, that’s unprecedented.
What’s more, the nature of the app means gamers all over the world are actually being inspired to go outside; to get some exercise, go exploring, visit local landmarks, and (in a sense) interact socially with their follow players, in a way that even my anti-social self has to admit has been sorely missing from the community, since the rise of online multiplayer removed the necessity of kids actually having to go round each-others’ houses, and abide by rules of etiquette, in order to play together. This is all for the good, no matter my feelings on the game itself, so I’m more than willing to smile from the side lines as the rest of my generation steps into this brave new world together… and presumably down an open man-hole.
Okay, okay. That’s that last one, I promise.
Anyway, as I don’t think it can be reasonably argued that the success of GO acts as a proof of concept for this kind of ARG, it’s got me thinking about some other franchises that might benefit from a similar spin-off:
1) Assassin’s Creed
Before anyone says anything, I’m not talking about the stabbing parts. When it comes to ARG’s, I think it’s a good idea to keep stabbing to a bare minimum in general. I still give it a pass though, because in all honesty the combat (which has always fluctuated between being prohibitively sluggish to boringly easy) has never been the main draw of Assassin’s Creed for me. See, I’m just enough of a history buff to be really fascinated by all the locations and time periods the games take you to, without being too irritated by all the liberties they take carving their fictional conflicts around historical ‘accuracy’. Being able to explore the medieval Holy Land, renaissance Italy, the Caribbean in the Golden Age of Piracy etc. from top to bottom, unravelling trivia about the history and landmarks of these places has always kept me entertained for hours at a time, and I think there’s room to build an ARG around that idea.
Let’s say the game begins by asking players to choose whether or not to be an agent of the Assassin’s or the Templars, before setting both sides out in a quest to unravel a randomly generated historical conspiracy (and reap the spoils) first. This requires each faction to make contact with other agents on their side, and visit local landmarks and sites of historical significance to solve puzzles and find clues. Everywhere in the world has its own local history, after all, which most people often walk right past unknowingly every day. If the game could have some kind of codex that could provide information on the places players visit, they’d essentially be getting a guided history tour of their local town or city, dressed up within the game, which I think has the potential to be very interesting.
Just so long as nobody tries to climb the landmarks and perform leaps of faith off them. There are unlikely to be any conveniently placed mounds of hay to break their fall, and they really don’t work so well in real life anyway.
2) Silent Hill
Again, I know recent events make this idea increasingly unlikely, but I don’t care if Konami is only interested in making pachinko machines these days, a man can dream!
This is really more for the people who live in sleepy, remote places where nothing much happens, but I can just imagine walking around my local village at night, having to dodge eldritch monstrosities that pop up on my phone screen, on my way to unravel some kind of sinister mystery. Come on, it’s basically a ghost walk, but actually with the element of isolation to make it scary.
Though really, it should only be playable when the weather is foggy.
3) Cooking Mama
No. Wait, don’t laugh. I’m being serious. Cooking Mama may not enter much into discussion when it comes to games and gaming culture, due to it hardly being down on the ‘hard core’ end of the spectrum that so many of us see (falsely) as the be all and end all of the medium. However, neither is Pokemon, no matter what Craig with his favourite Ultimate Charizard T-shirt has convinced himself of these past 20 years.
I don’t just envision a game that teaches you to follow recipes step by step. I’m talking about an ARG that might consider the entire culinary experience from beginning to end. Imagine a game that could suggest ideas for meals you would never have thought of on your own (perhaps even dishes from or inspired by cultures that you’ve never before experienced), directs you via GPS to where you can find the best ingredients, all the way through to the table, where you can rate and share your results with other players. Half of Instagram is already people posting pictures of their dinner, so it’s hard to argue there isn’t a market for it. An alternate reality app could not only teach us how to be better cooks and healthier eaters, but also broaden our culinary horizons and reintroduce the idea of eating as a social experience, for people who might not get out much or might not be able to afford to eat out often.
4) Monster Hunter
Okay, this one shouldn’t even require an explanation. Monster Hunter is literally just Pokemon for a slightly more adult audience that someone decided to make even more prohibitively Japanese. I could go into details as to how specifically I imagine an ARG like this would work, but I’d just be stating the obvious. The answer is right there in front of you already!
Those are just a few ideas, I have more, but I’m running out of space here. Perhaps I’ll revisit this topic next time, assuming the craze hasn’t fizzled out by then. Either way, make sure to check back in!
…That was this week’s OpinionatedDavid Article!!! Check back tomorrow at 6pm for a new VuePoint article!!!