With 2016 behind us, it is the time of the year where we look back at all the games we played and which ones of those were the greatest. While I played several games that were amazing, the one game I have to give the highest praise, is Pokemon GO.
While titles like Final Fantasy XV left a great impression on me (and made me weep alone, in the dark) and Uncharted 4 graphically surpassed what I ever thought was possible, Pokemon GO took them both to school on impact in the industry.
When I casually chatted with a developer friend a while back, he got all madface at me over my opinion on the game, as according to him it is severely flawed from a game design perspective. Not only that, but the amount of potential left untapped drives him and other developers completely off the wall.
All of that doesn’t matter though. It doesn’t matter to my parents who, months after release, still go on Pokewalks to get some Pokeballs, so that when they take my nephews out to the beach they have enough ammo to catch the Pokemon they don’t have yet. Not only that, but they even got involved enough to learn the names of the Pokemon so they can show off when they catch one the kids don’t have yet.
At the same time, my parents have no clue who Nathan Drake is or how freakishly good he looks on the PS4.
“For the first time in years, we have something to talk about” – Random lady in the park
When Pokemon GO first launched, I was definitely on board with the concept. (Partly, because I had thought up this exact game years before that. I’m still salty.) I spent most of my lunch breaks going for local walks, until I discovered a nearby park with several Pokestops was becoming a hotspot where dozens of players of all walks of life gathered each day. While I still played the game myself, the most fun I had was just looking around and hearing the conversations people were having around me. There was truly something magical about seeing a businessman have a conversation with a college student on where to find a Tauros closeby.
During one of my visits though, I caught just a soundbite from a conversation that hit me like brick and made me realize that the Pokemon GO “phenomenon” is more important than it being a perfect game.
Man: Are you playing that weird game too? I didn’t think that would interest you.
Woman: I know, but for the first time in years me and my 19 year old have something to talk about.
As I was just walking past (trying to catch ’em all) I didn’t catch the rest of the conversation, but that really was all I needed to hear.
The bonding that this game has brought to families and even strangers is, as far as I know, unprecedented in modern gaming. While co-op has been bringing people together for a while, Pokemon’s simple design made it accessible enough for virtually anyone.
If you looked at Pokemon GO from a “gamer’s” perspective, you would probably just see missed opportunities and some clunky game elements, but a modern “core” game would not have made it in the hands of grandparents. That game would not have invited families to go for Pokewalks. And while that game would have been a hit for fans of the franchise and incredibly popular, my parents also wouldn’t have had a clue WTF an Onyx is.
While GOTYs come and go, Pokemon GO is a game that created memories, and will continue to do so, that will be cherished by families for a long time. A game with that kind of influence in peoples lives deserves accolade, because we probably won’t see that happen again anytime soon.