Pokemon Go and Getting to Know Your Place

Pokemon Go!
The latest Pokemon craze has reached Philippine shores. Pokemon Go takes your gaming adventure in “catching them all” using real world places, instead of the imaginary regions such as Johto and Kanto. The advancements in map creation and geographical technology in the age of smartphones has made this game too possible to be true – and in one aspect of it, beneficial in appreciating and getting to know your city, in a generation that has been so immersed with the indoors and cyberspace.

Niantic Labs, the developers behind this latest craze, mashed up the adventure genre of the older Pokemon games on Nintendo GameBoy, and “augmented reality” games like the earlier “Ingress.”

That means, if you have been a Pokemon gamer since twenty years ago, it’s about catching those Pokemon, train them on Pokemon Gyms, and do battles with other trainers. The only difference is that real places transcend the virtual world, designating landmarks as “Pokemon Gyms” and Pokemon Stops (where you get items and lure Pokemon). Parks are good places to find these creatures. To bridge the gap between the real and the virtual, you have to use a smartphone for that.

Transcending the virtual space and “real world”

Just some random name of Charmander
Yes, I was one of those kids back in the 90s that played Pokemon. Pinagkaiba lang, those pocket monsters that I have to collect were on the fictional world called “Kanto” (which is inspired from the real world region in Japan where Tokyo is located). Aside from the anime that augments the imagination. 

Today, I can catch a Rattata in virtually almost any corner of Manila, a Zubat during night time; find a Magikarp in Baywalk, or a Pikachu in the office. Using augmented reality, the Pokemon Go servers place these Pokemon in the “real world,” effectively transcending fantasy and reality—at least through the smartphone. At least we let our imagination take over.
One of the heritage sites in downtown Manila as a Pokemon Gym
To say, Pokemon Go is geographical, looks like it’s an interesting topic for geographers out there!

Appreciating the City and the Surroundings

They’ve said that this generation is obsessed with their smartphones and cyberspace life, so much that we invest more time in the cyberspace than the “reality.” While this game is also a form of an addicting cyberspace thingy, the places where you can do Pokemon Battles and get freebies and items are placed in prominent and some not known monuments or sites!
Manila Cathedral is a PokeStop. This is where you get your items you need for your Pokemon adventure. Unlike the predecessors, Pokemon Go doesn't have a PokeStore as a location -- as far as PH is concerned for now.
 Personally, what I liked about these “markers” turned virtual PokeStops and PokeGyms is that “trainers” go to these areas. Sometimes, they may say “hala! Di ko alam na meron palang ganito dito!” Some of these PokeStops are prominent histo-cultural landmarks, and some of these have a trivia box on it – more like a PokeDex (Index of Pokemon for those who aren’t in the fad).
Rizal Monument is a Pokemon Gym
And since they are required by the game to be very alert with their surroundings (as they disclaimed. Mahirap nang ma-dekwat ang smartphone mo ng Team Rocket snatchers at mahulog ka sa manhole, di ba?), there is a tendency for the trainer to stop and take a look in their surroundings – to some appreciate, to others surprised, to other—hanap pa ng Pokemon more! Subtly, the game promotes local tourism and appreciation of the city and the places, the cultural sites, street life, and a lot more. The tourism bureau, entrepreneurs, and advocates may look at this as an opportunity to promote their localities to the new batch of Pokemon trainers – for that generation to learn about their history and their places more. Talk about how many people may go to a place just because somebody installed a Lure.
Some PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms have trivia boxes.

In one way, the game has promoted people to get out of their houses and take time to appreciate the mundane and the extraordinary. If we are to gotta catch them all, hopefully it’s not only the Pokemon on our smartphones, but on seeing the world and moving our butts out of our armchairs and keyboards. Just remember to be safe and alert at all times. Let’s cross between “The PokeMatrix” and the “Real World,” so we can be the very best that no one ever was.
Much as we like to immerse ourselves with the Pokemon Adventure, huwag mo nang antayin pang mahulog ka sa man hole o madekwat ang smart phone mo ng Team Rocket!