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Posts Tagged ‘pogo

Pokémon Go (PoGo) celebrated its second anniversary on 6 July. The game was released in Singapore in August, so I have been playing this game for almost two years.

PoGo second anniversary Pikachu.

I have reflected on how the game was — an still is — not quite augmented reality. Today I record two thoughts about how the game technology interacts with us.

The press would like you to know that PoGo is dead. This is despite the PoGo crowds you see on Community Days and Level 5 raids.

It will also keep telling you that too much gaming is a mental illness (and cite this WHO report) despite experts saying otherwise or expressing doubt. Why? Bad news sells, never mind the facts.

My observations are less deep.

The first is that playing a game like PoGo reveals who you already are, for the worst part. If you are a kiasu or kiasi local, you will help only yourself, others be damned. The local Facebook group for PoGo features daily drama to rival national broadcaster, MediocreCorp.

However, a game like PoGo can also change you for the better. You get out of your home and wander outside to catch, hatch, or match. This means getting some exercise, meeting new people, and exploring new places.

If you take the game more seriously, you read up about trends and strategies, and watch YouTube videos for tips, tricks, and expert advice.

Even the folks who cheat by spoofing their location in-game learn how to do it and so stay one step ahead of Niantic (the company responsible for PoGo).

That last point brings me back to the first — the game just reveals who you are. If you want to cheat or take shortcuts, you will do that. If you wish to stay true to the original spirit of the game, you can do that too.

Video source

Just over a week ago, someone asked me if I still conduct workshops on authentic and meaningful game-based learning. I have not done so in a while and would love to resume doing so. If I do, I wonder if I can work this philosophical element in. It is vital because it sends the message that game-based learning can bring out the best or worst in us.

For much of human history, non-related people might have called each other “friends”. Fast forward to the early 21st century and we invented “Facebook friends”.

Just over a week ago, those who play Pokémon Go (PoGo) have PoGo friends. This is an attempt to combine the first two types of friends.

The latest scourge to plague PoGo players who join FB groups for game information is to see post after post of “let’s be friends” followed by friend codes. If I wanted to see so many numbers, I would read a phone directory (remember those things?).

PoGo friend code.

I baulk at how so many people are sharing their friend codes freely and openly. Each number is linked to a player’s identity and there have already been cases of abuse, e.g., sharing someone else’s code and inundating that person’s game with friend requests from complete strangers.

One problem with the PoGo friending system is not being able to verify if the message sender also is the owner of the friend code. Niantic, the creator of PoGo, had to provide the option to reset your friend code.

Yet another problem waiting to happen is keying in a stranger’s friend code and then associate yourself with a spoofer or cheater. Niantic has already started clamping down on spoofers and cheaters, so might they come after their associates?

Some PoGo players want to have as many friends as possible not for social reasons but for selfish and blind ones instead. Some might hope to receive but not give back in-game gifts, but even that has limits.

You can only open 20 gifts a day provided you have space in your inventory. Currently, you can only collect 10 gifts at one go — it used to be just five — to distribute to friends.

If you have many friends, you create a backlog of giving and receiving. This is like receiving many Christmas gifts but opening some only on Easter and saying thank you by giving back by regifting in June.

The list of “friends” in PoGo is capped at 200 and there are no search, sort, or priority functions at the moment. It is a free-for-all and do-what-you-will. This dilutes what friendship means and delays the point of such “friendship” (gift exchange).

I only make PoGo friends with people I know and trust. I can tell you what they look like and how they behave in-game and out. I have just 11 such friends and I already find it a challenge to exchange gifts to raise our friendship levels.

Boosting friendship levels takes weeks or months. The higher levels lead to better rewards (see screenshot).

Raising friendship levels in PoGo.

As the highest level takes at least three months, this will take patience, consistency, and effort. All the bonuses require close proximity, i.e., battling and raiding the same gyms, and trading Pokémon within a 100m radius. These elements sound more like what happens in actual friendship.

Different people can do what they want within PoGo. But it is selfish, short-sighted, and illogical to try to game what it means to be friends.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to play Pokémon Go (PoGo) in yet another country. This time I was in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

I realised that I could repeat much of my reflection on playing PoGo in Amsterdam last year. The similarities were the slow pace and gentle culture of play.

The best Torkoal I caught in Georgetown, Penang.

One obvious difference this time around was the regional exclusive, Torkoal, that was available here. I only encountered five or six of them, possibly because I travelled while the in-game Water Festival was on.

Wailmer breaching off Penang.

The event saw an increased spawning of water type Pokémon everywhere at the expense of all other types. This was an AR photo that I took of a Wailmer off the waters between mainland Malaysia and the island portion of Penang.

I can already hear someone point out that the more kiasu and frantic style of play in Singapore makes us sharp. But as we gain that, we also lose some things — fair and honourable play, courtesy, a live-and-let-live attitude.

Some might say that our speed, efficiency, and even brutality of play are hard skills honed by playing in a hard environment. But we are what we eat, we become who we are. The longer term soft skills that stem from an even temperament, looking at the long term, and working well with others are far more valuable.

I see a loose parallel between the way we play PoGo here and the hard, grade-based academic environment that is the Singapore schooling system. Ultimately, grades do not matter as much as influence, character, and impact. Currently, the policy and political rhetoric point towards developing students with the latter traits. Are we willing and able to change our style of play?

Yesterday I hit Level 40 in Pokémon Go (Pogo). This is a significant milestone because there are only 40 levels in this game.

My Level 40 profile as viewed in a raid gym.

To reach this level, I had to accrue 20 million experience points (XP) by grabbing them wherever and whenever I could in the game.

Even though this is a difficult task, others have reached this level before me. Some use bots to harvest or unsanctioned tools to spoof their location. These “players” are so common that I can often be at a remote gym and be the only person in sight.

Thankfully there are people who play the game legitimately. I have met local “uncles” and “aunties” who met this milestone long before me. (Who am I kidding? I am an uncle myself!)

Younger folks might argue that the older folk have more spare time on their hands. And that they do. I played strategically in terms of time and how to maximise XP gains, but it still took me 20 months to reach Level 40.

For some, this milestone is the finish line — game over. However, it is not the end of the game for me. I am relying on a mix of extrinsic and intrinsic factors to keep playing the game.

Niantic, the parent company of Pogo, releases legendary Pokémon in raid battles roughly once a month. There are also monthly Community Days that promise the chance of catching shiny variants of Pokémon. The company also has a few more generations of Pokémon to release in the game.

I no longer need to grind for XP in the game. However, I will continue to look for the best of every type of Pokémon in terms of their IVs. I will also keep levelling up the Pokémon that have relevance in the meta game [examples] because they help in gym battles.

I also do not have some of the regional Pokémon. This is one more incentive to travel.

My game play reflects my learning philosophy. There are goals that someone else might define for me, and if I share these goals, I pursue them. But I do not stop there because that is a short-term learning strategy. I take ownership of the what, how, and why I learn.

Niantic owns Pokémon Go, but I own the way I play the game. Likewise, someone other entity might own the rights to a learning resource, but I own the learning process.

I am sitting at a cafe and reflecting on the aftermath of another Pokémon Go Community Day (PGCD) and my fifth exclusive raid (Ex Raid) of Mewtwo. The two happened to coincide.

I managed to catch six shiny Mareep and created this “family”portrait to remember the event.

Shiny Mareep family from Pokémon Go Community Day (15 Apr 2018).

I relied on my previous experiences of wandering around in a park versus positioning myself strategically at a mall. Doing the latter taught me that the concentration of Poké stops at the mall was more efficient and comfortable.

Concentration of Poké stops at Jurong Point Mall.

The PGCD event lasted three hours (11.00am-2.00pm locally) and my Ex Raid invitation started soon after (2.00-2.45pm).

Despite the raid being my fifth one this year, I still felt some butterflies. This is because I take the responsibility to coordinate the efforts of small teams and to help others catch Mewtwo. The social pressure to do both creates the Butterfrees.

Five Mewtwos and counting...

There always seems to be something different to experience at each Ex Raid even though I see familiar faces. This is where I reflect on the importance of context and expertise.

The context changed when a mother and daughter asked me to help them with a challenge. It was not for Mewtwo but for Mew instead.

There is a new feature in PoGo called Special Research. This is a series of increasingly difficult challenges that culminates in the invitation to catch the elusive Mew. The hurdle that the mother and daughter could not clear was to each make a successful curved excellent throw.

Making successful curved excellent throws is not easy and that is why it is one of the last few tasks. The challenge was made even more difficult when the daughter had only three Poké balls left in her inventory. Her mother’s inventory was not much better.

I caught a Pokémon with a curved excellent throw with the very last ball in the daughter’s inventory. It took a while before I could do the same on her mother’s phone.

The change in context was not catching different Pokémon; it was the different phones. There are different screen textures, video responsiveness, and screen sizes.

My experience was developed on my phone. Applying exactly the same expert strategies to different contexts did not work immediately. I eventually had to use a right-hand method on one phone and a left-hand strategy on the other.

My experience using other phones was limited. I had to learn the context-of-use quickly and modify my expertise as the context demanded.

Reflecting on this experience, I realise that I transferred a work-related strategy to a play-related one. When consulted, I am relied upon for my expertise and because of my experience. However, I make clear to my potential collaborators that I need to learn their contexts first. It is the logical and responsible thing to do.

Two days ago, I used my first Pokémon Go (PoGo) exclusive raid experience to illustrate how social leadership emerged from a crowd.

Today I illustrate how members of a crowd chose to respond to investigative analysis. In doing so, I link a game-related phenomenon to a social one in the teaching fraternity.

Nicholas Oyzon AKA Trainer Tips is a PoGo expert, an inspiring YouTuber, and an unofficial ambassador of the game franchise. He released a video detailing the efforts of people trying to unlock Niantic’s secret recipe for Ex Raid gyms.
 

Video source

Here is my TLDR take on the video: A few individuals used crowdsourced data, investigative analysis, and the scientific method to suggest Niantic’s algorithms for exclusive gyms.

You would think that any PoGo player still yearning for a chance to battle and catch Mewtwo would be thankful for such data analysis and timely information. However, if the Singapore PoGo Facebook group is an indicator of lay reaction here, the response was flat or negative.

A member posted a link to Oyzon’s YouTube video.

These were the types of responses when I last made the screenshot. I have labelled them A, B, and C.

A qualitative researcher might suggest that the low number of responses could indicate the low interest to helpful information. This suggestion would carry more weight if the researcher also reported the numbers of responses to complaints, polls, show offs, etc. — these regularly garner hundreds of comments.

If we think of the Facebook group as a microcosm of how some local social media-connected players think, then they fall into a few categories.

  • A: Ignorant. “Catch no ball” is a local colloquialism for “could not understand” or “over my head”. Either the video content was too complex or people in this group were unable/unwilling to process it.
  • B: Atheoretical. Unlike category A, those in B practice without theory. They operate by “what works” and care little for “why it works”.
  • C: Stubborn or wilfully ignorant. This group may or may not possess theories, and in both cases refuse to learn something new and useful.

People belonging to Group A and B might still be open to learning something new and helpful. People in Group C are unlikely to be open enough to learn.

There are certainly other groups of people, especially when this categorisation is applied to adult learners. I have met them all — these are teachers both preservice and inservice, lecturers, trainers, and professors. What is both frightening is the number that fall into Category C.

You might assume that teachers and educators should be most aware of the theories of learning and teaching practices that enable them. You would be wrong. What is worse is that while Category C is small, this group discourages those around them and holds back entire systems from improving pedagogically.

This is why I do what I do. I battle the lack of pedagogical theory in the hope of defeating ignorance. I fight the war of wilful ignorance in the hope of defeating apathy. It is relatively easy to win battles, but the war rages on.

I participated in a Pokémon Go exclusive raid of the Mewtwo boss yesterday. I did not plan on leading the charge, but that is what happened.

It was my first exclusive raid, but after reading in forums, chatting with a few Mewtwo veterans, and watching YouTube videos of the social gatherings from such raids, I was looking forward to it.

My ExRaid Pass to the Mewtwo battle.

I arrived early at the raid venue and it was already crowded. I asked people if they were already grouped by team colours — this maximises the number of Poké balls you receive to catch Mewtwo — but most people milled about.

I was not about to leave such an important catch to chance, so I asked teams to form and people started self-organising. As I busied myself with making sure that there were enough people per group, I also took the advice of two veterans.

One player told me that we did not need to form teams of 20; about 10 players per team would do. So we divided large groups into smaller ones and checked the numbers. Another veteran reminded me that the quality of the player mattered — level 20+ players needed to be put in groups with high level (35+) players for maximum effect. So we checked again.

My battle party for Mewtwo.

I took the precaution of reminding everyone in my group to bring the optimal Pokémon to the fight (Dark types like Tyranitar) and not engage in selfish behaviours like using a Blissey (very tanky but offers little damage). I told everyone how we would use the private group function to exclude spoofers and cheaters.

I had to do some people management when one member of my team walked away for a smoke, another was distracted with multiple accounts, and yet another panicked with his choice of battlers. Then I offered words of encouragement before we started.

Thankfully, my group’s battle went smoothly and we beat our Mewtwo with about half the time to spare. Only my first three Tyranitars were spent from the battle.

Everyone in our group managed to catch their own Mewtwo after that. I managed to catch a 91% IV Mewtwo with ideal move sets. Now I have to decide whether or not to use Rare Candy and stardust to power it up for other battles.

Screenshot of my Pokémon Go app's journal showing evidence of the Mewtwo raid and capture.

My 91%IV Mewtwo with ideal move sets.

Our partner group of 10 players had more high level players and they completed the battle about 20 seconds before we did. Unfortunately, two members of that group could not catch their Mewtwos despite the team and damage bonus of Poké balls.

As a result of the extra work, I forgot to activate a Lucky Egg (to double the XP from the catch and get the New Catch bonus) and a Star Piece (to get 50% more Pokémon stardust). I also forgot to activate the video recording function on my iPhone.

If I get the opportunity to do this again, I would:

  • Try to get a team of solo account players (they are more focused)
  • Ensure an even mix of low and high level players in each group
  • Remind players to set up battle parties in their phones prior to fighting Mewtwo
  • Remind everyone to activate Lucky Eggs and Star Pieces if they wished
  • Screen capture the process

I am glad that I did my homework on battling and catching Mewtwo from game sites, forums, and online videos. The emergent social leadership was something that just had to be done, but I was inspired by stories in social media.

Emergent leadership is not just about one person and the start of a journey. After I started the fire, the groups were self-sustaining because at least one member was experienced or had done their homework. After the group-based battle and individual attempts at catching, there was also the need to congratulate those that got their Mewtwo and console those whose quarry fled.

A few strangers thanked me for organising the group. One person even shook my hand and said he hoped to see me again at another battle. I am just thankful the group listened and offered timely advice.

There are some nasty or selfish people in Pokémon Go, but this experience showed me that there are nice ones too. And even the not-so-nice ones put their unpleasantness aside in pursuit of a shared goal.


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