What makes Pokemon so good

Pokémon Go under the educational microscope

They are called Pikachu, Charmander, Knofensa or Rattfratz and in many adults over 35 years of age they can either shake their heads, shrug their shoulders or take a defensive position. However, they are extremely popular with younger people who have been socialized with them and are inextricably linked to positive childhood memories. The notorious Pokémon are meant. And once again they managed to spark a hype.
With the new free app Pokémon Go reality and play merge. On a discovery tour through the real environment, Pokémon can be discovered, collected, trained in arenas and used in competitions against other teams. In order to catch them, the player actually has to leave the sofa at home, move around and cooperate.

From Daniel Heinz

But in the course of the publication there was also criticism in the form of press reports with sensational headlines. These range from "robbers lure victims to augmented reality games" and "Android versions with Trojans in circulation" to "woman looking for" Pokémon Go "figure and discovering corpse". Is there a reason to be concerned? The Spielatgeber-NRW has taken a closer look at the phenomenon.

What are Pokémon anyway?
The suitcase word Pokémon consists Pocket (English for bag) and monster and describes the protagonists of the popular video game series of the same name, released in 1996. Due to its great success, there is also an equally popular anime TV series, a trading card game, numerous films and tons of merchandise items. Collectible figures, magazines, mugs, parasols, drinking bottles, stickers, pasta, clothing and much more can be found on the Internet, in supermarkets and fan shops. In the meantime there was even a Pokémon amusement park.
Regardless of whether it's a film, game or app - the goal is to become a "Pokémon master". To do this, the beings must first be captured. The trainer can then have them compete against others in so-called Pokémon battles. This is how they are trained and can even evolve into more powerful versions.

What is Pokémon Go?
As already described, it is a kind of smartphone scavenger hunt outdoors (location-based game). The app asks the player to go to “real” places, to hold the smartphone in front of them in order to see the pocket monsters virtually superimposed on the image of the rear camera. Now you have to throw a virtual Poké Ball (the “cage” of a Pokémon) in a targeted manner in order to catch it. This reality, supplemented by virtual elements, is called "Augmented Reality".
There is a similar principle with the game "Ingress" from the same manufacturer. And here and there, a pimped up Google Maps interface forms the basis. This shows where and what there is to discover in the area. In Pokémon arenas, players can train their characters and compete against others, while so-called Pokéstops have random items. And of course you stumble across the little pocket monsters in many places. Pokémon have certain elements. So some beings are more likely - but not exclusively, near water, others are more likely to be found at night. As an additional incentive, there are challenges that are rewarded with medals.

How do you play together?
Pokèmon Go challenges and encourages contact with other players. Eventually the environment becomes the playground of a competition. So it is hardly surprising that players meet and exchange ideas at the important locations. In addition, various communication platforms are used for consultation.
When the game progresses at a certain level, the coach is asked to join one of three teams. These teams can occupy Pokémon arenas and equip them with protective pocket monsters. Here you can also train your own beings, which improves their ability, prestige and, above a certain amount, the level of the arena. Now more Pokémon can be placed for protection. So the goal is to work with team members to build the strongest possible defense. And vice versa, it is important to attack the opposing arenas and secure them for your own team. Since the opposing parties are not inactive, this creates a dynamic and exciting back and forth, as the balance of power between the groups involved can change constantly.

How and for which system can I download the app?
The app is available for Android and iOS devices. A version for Microsoft smartphones has already been announced. 

Is the combat aspect problematic?
Prejudice against Pokémon boomed in the late 1990s. The game and series were often portrayed as a pointless waste of time. Above all, the combat-oriented plot was criticized. However, the destruction of the opponent in the battle arenas was and is not the goal, but rather a tactical test of strength. Similar to the rock-paper-scissors principle, the element of a Pokémon must be taken into account in order to be successful. The pocket monsters are weakened after a defeat, but do not die. The graphic representations are also harmless and do not appear threatening.
Not every leisure interest has to be “pedagogically valuable”. It is important for adolescents to have a common topic that their parents are not interested in and that allows them to set themselves apart.

How time-consuming is the hunt for the pocket monsters?
That depends on the motivation of the player. Similar to conventional online role-playing games, higher ranks can also be achieved here through successful actions. This allows you to catch and train better Pokémon and gives the player access to stronger items, such as. B. Super balls to effectively catch the Pokémon. In order to achieve this, however, the player has to invest time. The game itself does not build up any direct time or action pressure. Rather, it could be felt subjectively. In addition, the game has no end and will probably be expanded with new content over the years. The balance of power in the teams is also constantly changing. As a result, the groups have to adapt to new challenges and work together in a coordinated manner, which contributes to long-term motivation.
Experience with the game Ingress has shown that the success-oriented players can and want to deal with it very strongly and over a long period of time. Round tables or forums have also developed into the hobby in order to discuss tactics with regard to area responsibilities and deployment plans. According to the gamer, the resulting acquaintances contribute to long-term motivation and also ensure a certain sense of responsibility. For some, the pressure could arise to want to constantly intervene, especially since active and helpful players generally have a particularly high reputation in the community in cooperative games.

Do the players move more?
Playing location-based games can encourage users to exercise more. After all, you no longer just go from A to B, but explore your surroundings, walk to Pokémon and game-relevant locations that are displayed off the beaten track. And the experiences from the game Ingress show that you go on tour even when sofa time is actually the order of the day. The message that an opposing team is besieging a nearby arena can also be motivating. Mention should be made of the fact that motorized vehicles distort competition very strongly. Because at low speed, Pokémon can also be collected while driving.

Is the risk of accidents on the road increasing?
Hardly appeared a day, and reports of the first pile-up from Pokémon Go are already being reported. A duck, it turned out. Of course - whether as a pedestrian, bicycle or car driver - anyone who is distracted by their smartphone in traffic also has a higher risk of accidents. And such games can tempt success-oriented children, young people and adults to keep an eye on the map while on the move and look out for Pokémon or other game-relevant locations.
However, it is advisable to be calm. Because it is not to be assumed that a whole horde of players like the lemmings is wandering the streets and running in front of lanterns. Rather, adolescents should be made aware of the dangers of using smartphones in traffic.

Is the game free?
Yes and no. Download and use are free. However, the player can purchase virtual Poké coins via the in-game shop. Although you can earn all items, the microtransactions are aimed specifically at the success-oriented impulse buyers. If a rare Pokémon is discovered and there are currently no Poké Balls ready to catch, the temptation to want to spend money can quickly arise. Contracts with minors (7-17 years of age) are generally ineffective, so that contractual partners accordingly have no claim to payment. Exceptions to this, however, are contracts in which the minor has paid for the remuneration entirely with funds that have been given to him for this purpose or at his own free disposal by the representative or a third party (= pocket money; cf. "Pocket money paragraph" § 110 BGB). However, parents can configure the devices so that no payments can be made.
Players also need to be aware that there is a huge marketing machinery behind the Pokémon brand. Fans with a certain brand awareness are exposed to constant incentives to buy outside of their own game.

What do you have to consider with regard to data protection?
In addition to money, data has become an important currency. So it is hardly surprising that a large amount of usage data is also collected and used for analysis, personalization and marketing measures. This also includes movement profiles. In addition, according to the terms and conditions, personal information can be passed on to government agencies such as investigative authorities or private individuals at your own discretion for security reasons. Parents of players under the age of 13 can also request all information (for more information, go to netzpolitik.org). These provisions should be carefully checked before downloading.
Data protectionists also fear that personal profiles will in future also be used by other providers with a commercial background, e.g. B. for location-based advertising.

At what age should you allow Pokémon Go?
That depends on the child's level of development. The ability to withstand purchase incentives, to reflect critically on one's own playing time, to behave cautiously in contact with strangers, to recognize the value of data and to act safely in traffic is required. In children under 12 years of age, these skills may not be sufficiently available. The use of smartphones in particular is beyond parental control. Agreements and open, interested discussions are helpful here.
Parents need a skill too. You should critically reflect on the negative reports. Often it is sensational individual reports. A calm skepticism, a trusting relationship and sensible media rules often make more sense than an over-emotional panic reaction, as often happened at the start of the Pokémon hype in the late 1990s. And why not just let the children who are already playing show you the game while walking?
Alternatively, a Let's Play can be watched together, e.g. by our colleague Firlefranz.