Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Pokémon - Everyone loves a good Hunt!!

For Illustrative Purpose Only
MAN was once a nomadic animal. His existence was that of a hunter and gatherer. Just like a predator he would be on the hunt and stalk prey and kill. This hunting continued even when he became domesticated and had farmed animals and agriculture. Now, it was more a way showing bravery. Even though hunting for trophy or for subsistence has gone down it has not been eliminated. Most people simply do not have the tools to hunt. This base instinct of being a hunter, a person on the scent of a prey has combined with mobile gaming technology to give us the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go!

Pokémon is short for “Pocket Monster”. Originally a concept that originated in Japan as a game for the Gameboy videogame consoles in the early 90’s. The basic theme is insect collection, which the founder was fond of. The general theme was to collect all the Pokémon’s in a certain area to complete your collection. The next stage was to train the powerful Pokémon’s to fight and have virtual battles with other players Pokémon’s to win the league. The base concept thus is of collecting, training and battling.

Pokémon Go enmeshes this concept in the real world situation. The creatures appear or spawn in the real world at real locations and are visible on the phone screens of the player’s phones. You can capture these by using pokeballs, virtual balls with the power to capture the Pokémon’s. These are available at certain public places. The Pokémon’s themselves are themed with water based Pokémon’s found near water bodies and wild ones spawning randomly at any place. You have designated public places such as the Central Park New York or India Gate in Delhi which are Pokémon gyms. Here you train your Pokémon’s and fight other players. For some Pokémon’s, you get eggs and to hatch them you have to walk a certain number of kilometers. This was a perfect recipe for a hit. The game has smashed all records for player engagement and it is quickly shaping up to be a cultural phenomenon.

There have been various incidents that highlight the good and the bad of the phenomenon. Criminals have used odd locations where players chase the Pokémon’s to rob players. People have stopped on busy highways to catch rare Pokémon’s causing accidents. A girl discovered a floating dead body in the river while catching Pokémon. There have also been complaints from cemeteries and homes that players have trespassed to catch the virtual monsters. But along with this there is whole lot of good happening. Americans have discovered metric system, since as per the game in order to hatch eggs to get rare Pokémon’s they have to walk a number of kilometers (Google search for kilometers to miles have shot up in the USA)!! Small historic towns have got increased traffic that is helping the economy as players flood to catch the rare Pokémon and spend on food and supplies in the local stores. Introverted gamers are coming out of the sofas and computer screen and walking around the real world and are swapping stories of their catches with absolute strangers and making friends. More people are discovering the hidden gems that their own city holds.

Additionally, there have been organized Poke hunts in various cities including in India. There was tremendous support with more than a thousand turning up for the hunts in Delhi. Tour companies in Italy are planning Poke hunts with a senior player as a guide. Tourists can hunt the Pokémon’s while going around the hotspots in buses. People have put in ads online to safely drive players for a fee while they hunt Pokémon’s. This whole ecosystem has been completely user generated and is unprecedented for any game in history.

But what is it that attracts the players. My guess is that the game at a certain level caters to the base instinct that exists in all of us. That is of a hunter gatherer. A seeker, who gets a hint, a clue, and wants to follow it. Call it hunting or call it treasure hunt, once you are on the scent you cannot stop. And everyone loves a good hunt!!

In the forthcoming book “The Indus Challenge”, an ancient seal with symbols from the Indus Valley civilization is found by Alexander the Great.  Thus starts a hunt for the ancient secret sciences of India. The hunt that involved everyone from Alexander and his Generals to  Chanakya, Chandragupta and Rudra his trusted lieutenant, the protagonist.  It was epic in scale spanning from the icy heights of Mount Kailash to the silent seas of Rameshwaram. To know more, you have to grab a copy of the book “The Indus Challenge”. To hit the bookstands soon!!

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