I’ve been playing a lot more of the geolocation augmented-reality game Ingress lately, and have been considering writing up a report on what the experience has been like. But this morning I learned about a related augmented-reality game, also being made by Google subsidiary Niantic, that could be a lot bigger than even Ingress has been, simply because it’s based on a long-running intellectual property that has many, many fans.
That property is Pokémon. The game, Pokémon Go, seems to involve going to different places in the real world in order to fight and capture monsters, who can then be dueled, shared, and traded with other players in the time-honored Pokémon style. And it will also feature a Pokémon-ball-shaped Bluetooth gizmo, “Pokémon Go Plus,” which can be used in conjunction with the smartphone game.
Not only does Pokémon already have a broad audience, the more active form of gameplay of such a game could appeal to players who don’t really get much of a thrill out of Ingress’s mode of setting up portals and linking them from place to place in order to score. But the experience Niantic has gained in setting up and running such a game will be invaluable to making Pokémon Go work.
This is an interesting new style of gaming that we hadn’t seen before Ingress kicked it off. But it’s a style of game that some have predicted. In his novel Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge featured “belief circles,” groups of people who played augmented-reality games by going to different real-world places to accomplish their goals. Vinge’s form of augmented reality involved digital imagery actually being superimposed over the real world in real time, which we haven’t managed to do yet, but other than that, the principle is remarkably similar. One of Vinge’s “belief circles” even appeared to be a version of Pokémon with the serial numbers filed off.
What might this new style of gaming portend for e-books? Might someone create a sort of geolocational e-book library where you have to go to different places in the real world to unlock the ability to read a particular e-book? It could be useful for Alternate Reality Games where you have to go to a particular location to “find a clue” to solve a puzzle—the clue could be text or multimedia that unlocks when you get there.
We’ve only just scratched the surface of augmented-reality games, and there is room for such games to exist in all different genres. I wonder what the field will look like in a few more years?