For a game built for a completely different platform, Pokémon Go has absolutely no trouble stirring up the nostalgia. This time, however, the world around you is the game’s world too; as you walk around, your character moves with all the grace and accuracy of a toddler. Nerds call this “augmented reality”; it’s really just a Pokémon-themed overlay to Google Maps.
In Go, players have to walk around in the real world to find wild Pokémon. Unfortunately for the University of Sydney, it seems we have an abundance of boring, common Pokés (think Weedle and Pidgey). Victoria Park is slightly better, and there are reports of Jynx and Bulbasaur on the Camperdown side of campus, but otherwise you will have to walk quite a bit to catch anything useful.
What this will mean for the campus is unclear. Will the number of slow walkers to and from Redfern increase? Perhaps Arts students will finally have a reason to willingly venture to the other side of City Road (probably not). Just remember to look up from your phone every now and again. Expect to see more than a couple of students bump into each other on Eastern Avenue.
Surrounding you are Pokéstops, which are designated landmarks, statues, and prominent graffiti, from which you can pick up important items as you walk by. Some of these Pokéstops seem to give more items than others – you may want to adjust your walk into USyd to go through the Victoria Park entrance, for example. Some of these serve as Gyms, where players use the shallow (even by low Pokémon standards) battle mechanics and try and control the Gyms for themselves and their teams.
Students at USyd are set for a tough semester if they choose to take Go seriously, and try and control these Gyms. Merewether, New Law, and the Mackie Building on Arundel Street all host one, while College students will fight over The Alfred Hotel. With so many Pokéstops on campus and nearby in Victoria Park, Glebe, and Newtown, students will find themselves at high levels and plenty strong in no time. Even before the semester started, holding these Gyms down for more than an hour was a challenging task. Team Mystic (Blue) seemed to be doing better at it, but who knows how many Instinct (Yellow) and Valor (Red) players will be trying to change that.
The game also features Lure Modules, purchasable items that, for half an hour, increase the rate of appearing around a chosen Pokéstop. Every player reaps the benefits when someone drops a lure, and it works best when many are dropped at Pokéstops within close proximity to each other. Manning House, just outside Wallace Theatre, and the Wentworth Building all play host to multiple Pokéstops, so expect plenty of Lure Modules and hundreds of students milling around these areas trying to catch something better. Given their appeal, expect Lures to be used for a variety of purposes. A fundraising BBQ or a sparsely-populated club or society event may just have a couple more attendees with a Lure nearby. A note to lecturers: put Lures close-by to your lectures and I might turn up more often.
With no peer-to-peer functionality (no trading or battling with friends) and inch-deep gameplay, it remains to be seen just how popular Go will be in the long term. Such features would be perfect for playing at USyd. Think of the hundreds of students that already gather at the Law Lawns, or at Manning and Hermann’s, and then imagine them trading and battling all day every day – productivity would screech to a halt. For now though, the casual player may find the game a bit too shallow and repetitive; for the hardcore, the motto “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” is enough to make this game a never-ending pursuit for every Pokémon, and to be the very best like no one ever was.