A Pokémon Go player searches for Pokémon at Maffeo Sutton Park. The smartphone game has become increasingly popular since it was officially released in Canada last week.

A Pokémon Go player searches for Pokémon at Maffeo Sutton Park. The smartphone game has become increasingly popular since it was officially released in Canada last week.

Augmented reality strikes chord with gamers

NANAIMO - Pokémon Go app takes geocaching into whole new realm.

A couple of nights ago my daughter looks at her smartphone and says there’s an “Eevee” in our back yard.

An Eevee?

“C’mon, Mom, let’s go see if we can find it.”

My daughter? The one chained to the couch and her laptop computer because outside it’s always “too hot,” “too cold,” “too buggy,” “too bright” or “too dark” jumps up and races outside?

This rend in the fabric of my reality was brought on by augmented reality – or at least the new AR app garnering huge hype these days: Pokémon Go.

The game, if you live under a rock like I do and hadn’t heard of it before last week, is based on Pokémon, created by video game designer and childhood insect collector Satochi Tajiri in the 1990s. My kids played it. Whose didn’t? Tajiri has taken the concept a huge leap forward by turning it into a mobile app that’s become ridiculously popular worldwide, including Canada, even before it was officially released here. It’s the most downloaded mobile app game in U.S. history where, as of July 11, already had more than 21 million daily users.

Moments before my wife and daughter fled outside, my stepson – surprised to see a ‘lure’ in our backyard because we “live in desolation” otherwise known as North Oyster – was explaining the game to me. Basically, it’s geocaching on steroids. Well, “geo-catching” is a better term I’ve read. People follow lures or hints or Pokéstops or whatever markers that lead them to catching Pokémon characters for points or candy or fighting abilities or whatever. There are plenty of online sites that explain it. What’s important is, it gets people outdoors and interacting.

“This is the first game that totally changes social media,” my stepson said, more or less. “People have been playing virtual reality games, just sitting in front of computers. That’s no fun. This gets people back outdoors.”

That means dozens of people, looking for Pokémon characters, might show up in a park, gather and socialize while searching the area and then disperse to follow new leads. It can happen anywhere, any time.

The spontaneity of the game has lead to bizarre occurrences raised safety concerns for police. I had one of those you-know-what-kind-of-moment moments reading the Richmond, B.C. RCMP’s Tips for Enjoying Pokémon Go Responsibly.

“When we are dispatched to calls involving groups of individuals, officer safety is paramount. Typically we would deploy multiple officers to investigate. We do not wish to be spoilsports, as many of our officers enjoy gaming too, but we want to make sure that our resources are not tied up investigating Pokémon players or gatherings, especially when our assistance can be wisely allocated elsewhere. Hopefully, our tips will help. Pika Pika!” Cpl. Dennis Hwang, Richmond RCMP media liaison, said in the press release.

Recently, armed robbers used the app to lure players to secluded areas in Missouri. A former U.S. Marine fighting in Iraq posted a screenshot of a ‘Squirtle’ sitting atop his machine gun. There are numerous reports of minor injuries suffered by players staring into their phones and tripping over things.

I don’t like complicated games. World of Tanks is my speed. Don’t think. Just shoot something. Board games? Anything that moves fast and you’re not too absorbed by the game complexity to enjoy your company – and that’s where the light went on for me with Pokémon Go.

Is it a passing fad? Who knows, but I too have to try it.

photos@nanaimobulletin.com