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Posts Tagged ‘PokémonGo

I focused on the word “community” when I read the tweet below.

I reflected on how the word if often cited but rarely understood. I am all for the practice of having communities to drive conversation and learning. I am not for misusing the term or empty rhetoric.

I know what the tweet is getting at — the energy and the positivity that people can get from one another. However, having “community” does not automatically result in something positive. Racism is driven by community.

Pokèmon Go is not driven by a single community. Every country has communities of players. Three years into the game, there are small but positive communities of fans with deep knowledge and trainers who play with family.

Over that same time, and in Singapore in particular, are communities of spoofers and shavers, selfish and territorial players, the ignorant but loud, etc.

Lest I sound judgmental, one need only play the game casually and interact with others for a while to anecdotally find these communities.

Such communities are face-to-face and in Facebook. There is some policing and moderating online, but it hard to hide ugly behaviour in person.

This is not to say that there are no nice people. There are, but they can be hard to find or do not last long. The “community” mentioned in the tweet were ardent players who were selected for and had the means to make it to the event.

My point is that using “community” ignores that there is more than one group. Groups of PoGo players are heterogeneous. Painting all with a broad stroke called “community” does not cover all the cracks or imperfections in the wall.

I can guess what happened. Some people were not happy when Niantic announced the winner of an AR photo taking contest for Pokémon Go. The salty folk might have judged the photo as underwhelming.

Thankfully a prominent PoGo player provided some insight via his tweet above.

While most people opted to take three separate photos based on three different themes, the winner connected all three by using three stages of one Pokémon and trying to tell a story.

So I repeat and rephrase what I said yesterday: The product of learning alone is not enough; the processes provide context and insights into the learning.

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?

I'm at Level 40 and currently walking Metagross for candy.

Recently I reflected on reaching Level 40 in Pokémon Go (PoGo). But I did not address all the reasons why I keep running even though I have reached a “finish” line.

My short answer: I keep playing to keep learning.

As the game os location-based, this requires me to occasionally visit new places. As I do, I meet new people and gain new perspectives.

If those new places and people are overseas when I hunt for regional Pokémon, that is the ultimate bonus! Case in point: This was a virtual souvenir from The Netherlands.

Mr Mime from Amsterdam.

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.

I am following up my reflection last week on how games create personal opportunities for learning with how they reveal character. I use the game I play, Pokémon Go (PoGo), to illustrate.

I attended my third and fourth Exclusive Raids of Mewtwo last month. This could be like saying I struck the lottery a third and fourth time only if players did not crowdsource strategies on increasing the chances of hitting this lottery.
 
Third and fourth Ex Raids in PoGo.

I saw several familiar faces at the raid venue and made it a point to find nice people to raid with and to be welcoming to first-timers.

Doing these are important to me because there are groups who refuse entry to stragglers if they think they have an optimum number of people. Such unpleasant groups base such belief on unproven theory and make a social game anti-social.

PoGo does not make players social or anti-social. It is an extension and an amplification of who they already are. If they choose to perpetuate ignorance and turn newbies away, the game will do little to change those behaviours.

I was shocked by another phenomenon I experienced in my last foray. As I have developed a good strategy to catch Mewtwo, people handed me their phones after they lost or completely lacked confidence in their own abilities to snag it.

I was given six devices in quick succession and did one-ball catches in all but one device. With the exception of the first person who asked politely and clearly tried on her own, the others were just shoved under my nose.

The last three devices were from another woman with son in tow. These three and the other two devices had owners who shared these traits: They

  • outsourced the Mewtwo catches
  • seemed to think that they were entitled to do this
  • did not say “thank you” after I caught Mewtwo for them

At the time, I thought little of this. It was flattering to suddenly be relied upon for help. But as soon as my ego got out of the way, I realised that I was enabling selfish behaviour.

If I have the privilege of attending a fifth Ex Raid, I am going to repeat what I did for the first person who asked politely. I had met that auntie at my first raid and I showed her my strategy.

I met her again at what turned out the fourth Ex Raid for the both of us and she actually tried to catch Mewtwo on her own this time. This was better than handing the task immediately to someone else. I attribute this to her willingness to learn and my opportunity to teach her about two months prior.

I am not going to miss the opportunity to teach a few more strangers in the hope that they will learn to help themselves instead of relying selfishly on others. Then perhaps they can pass this strategy along…

I am rewarding myself with a short break after intensive week of evaluating assignments.

But even as I relax by playing Pokémon Go (PoGo), I observe behaviours that remind me why implementing change is so difficult. People keep old habits because they see only what is around them.

Niantic, the company behind PoGo, recently re-released past legendaries Kyogre and Groudon alongside the current Rayquaza in an attempt to spice things up. What players collectively catch more of determines what normal but rare (or rare-ish) Pokémon hatch from eggs.

There is currently 85K people in a Facebook group of PoGo players in Singapore. A group poll showed that an overwhelming majority favoured the catching the current legendary, Rayquaza. The experience is fresher (it was just released) and the consequences are better (the rarest normal Pokémon will hatch from eggs).

That said, a poll and an online community does not necessarily represent what happens on the ground.

If you find a gym with a five-star rating (legendary boss), you have a one in three chance of battling Rayquaza, and a two in three chance of battling the other two.

If the poll held true, you would expect most people to invest time, effort, and their free or paid passes into the Rayquaza raids. Very few walk away from non-Rayquaza raids even though they said they would.

A few who stay might not actually be raiding. They might just be there for a friend or are clearing up their game inventory. But even a cursory glance will reveal the telltale tap-tap-tap battling motion of the players that remain.

What people say is not what people always do.

Likewise, when there is change, it is easy for people to buy-in to rationale, but it is not as easy to take ownership of action. I have shared before how buy-in is a state of mind while ownership is a state of being.

Buy-in is a state of mind. Ownership is a state of being.

So why is it difficult for people to take ownership and create change?

While there might be shared purpose, there might not be shared plans or strategies. In PoGo, there might not be a social signal to abandon a futile raid, so people keep raiding even though it is short-sighted. In schooling, there might not be a signature pedagogy, so teachers keep doing what they have always done.

An edublogger I respect once wrote that is it important to not just look up and beyond, but also look down and at what is immediate when implementing change. I agree, but only to a point.

Only the skilled and wise know how to balance the actions of keeping their eyes on the prize while dealing with the daily grind. Ignore one or the other and you lose your way. The PoGo players see only what is immediate — people around them raiding and using up a daily pass — so they do not change tactics. Teachers see what the majority of their peers are doing — buying in but not taking ownership — and they do the same.

PoGo is a game with consequences that are relatively short-term and do not have much of an impact outside the game. However, teaching indifferently has consequences that are long-term and go far deeper. Both benefit from shared strategies and looking beyond the immediate.


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