Science Explains Pokemon GO’s Obsessive Appeal

Pokemon GO TD AH 9

There’s no denying that Pokemon GO is already a huge success. This mobile game, recently released for both Android and iOS, takes advantage of augmented reality to make the game world feel more like the real world. It uses GPS to track the player and show nearby Pokemon creatures on the map. Then, by pointing their smartphone’s camera in the direction of Pokemon’s location, the player can see a Pokemon on their smartphone’s display, overlaid on the real world image being shown by the camera, and can capture the little creature by flinging a ball at it. What makes this so entertaining and addictive?

According to the Pacific Standard, they key is augmented reality. Augmented Reality (AR) is similar in many senses to virtual reality (VR). Both AR and VR involve using sensors to determine which way a device is pointed, which translates to where objects are located within the game. But with virtual reality, all the player sees are the virtual objects inside the game; with augmented reality, game objects are drawn over the top of real world objects, and the two combine to make an image that is partially real and partially digitized. While virtual reality games provide an immersive experience that separates the player from the real world, augmented reality creates an experience that keeps the player in the real world, while altering  the real world just enough to fit the game. It doesn’t require special equipment that costs a lot of money and has to be worn on your body. Augmented reality games can be played anywhere, and that is one of the key strengths of Pokemon GO. While virtual reality can create an amazing fantasy experience, games like Pokemon GO give the user a connection with the real world, and this is one of the reasons it has become so popular. A journal called “Computers and Education”, cited by Pacific Standard, says that augmented reality can create a “high degree of surprise and curiosity”.

Because this is one of the first games of its type to reach such a high level of popularity, it has created a lot of curiosity amongst regular people as well. Along with this interesting new play style come some unique safety concerns, which will surely be addressed over time. As this technology develops it will be interesting to see what new and innovative uses developers will think of to take advantage of it.