"Are you still playing Pokemon Go?"
Well yes I am... and lots of other people are returning to the game who left previously. With the introduction of friends, trading and gifts, some people are now seeing the social side of the game they were hoping for from the beginning.
The concept of pokemon go, just in case it somehow passed you by, is to adventure in the real world and find creatures viewed on you phone screen in a digital representation of the world or superimposed into you camera view by Augmented Reality and catch them.
There are a few things that make this type of game, pokemon go in particular, so different from other handheld or mobile games.
Firstly, the interaction with the outside world, the need to physically move to move your avatar in the game. There are a variety of distance rewards for walking such as hatching eggs and getting candies from walking your chosen pokemon as a buddy. These allow you to collect creatures that you might struggle to get in a different way. This has advantages, getting the gamers outside and moving, the game is an excellent motivation for people of all ages to exercise more. It also has downsides limiting the speed of progress or ability to play for people with physical disabilities in particular. There is a speed limitation on the game meaning that most driving/train miles will not count and the pokemon do not appear when you are moving fast.
Another interesting feature of the game is that the majority of game locations, called pokestops, are at sites of interest as defined by Google maps. Within the game is a photograph of the location, a title and sometimes a few words of description. What this does is ensures the player is aware of heritage sites and historical monuments in their area. They might have walked past that Blue Plaque marking a historic event a hundred times without ever reading it, but if it had a pokestop on it there is a chance they know what it says.
This means that people who perhaps would not usually engage with the history and heritage of their area might well be doing so. Of course it would be ideal if the organisations who own those monuments, buildings and sites found someway to engage with those players... But that's a different blog post...
Another type of game locations are poke gyms. These are sites that can be battled over and taken, then players can leave a pokemon at the site to defend it. Others on the same team can leave their pokemon with yours.
The gyms periodically have an more powerful pokemon in them that players can team up to defeat it, this is called a raid. Because of the nature of the game this means players are physically standing at the same place. If it's a large raid then this involves a certain amount of organisation to ensure the raid goes well.
So what does this game say about its players, that they like getting out of the house, exploring new places, cooperating with others, knowledgeable about local sites and heritage... None of that sounds like your stereotypical gamer and perhaps that the point, the game attracts different people, but also perhaps widens the horizons of the people who play it. Perhaps that's why I am still playing Pokemon Go.