Examining the potential for exercise and exploration in Pokemon GO

Just in time for your New Year's resolution, we reported on how Pokemon Go was featured in a peer-reviewed study on getting people to move more. But truthfully, Pokemon and Nintendo have built exercise games several times in the past, and Niantic never advertises PoGO as an exercise game. It's an ARG. In fact, the official site never mentions exercise, just exploring. That being said, we don't really think of adventurers or explorers as being slugabeds. So what is PoGO doing with exploration that gets people to exercise, and is it really that effective?

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MMO lockboxes, keys, and booster packs: Gambling or gaming?

Lockboxes have become a hot topic over the last couple of years. Last month, both our writers and readers crowned SWTOR worst business model of the year in part over its lockbox shenanigans. And several business model and lockbox-related articles made it into our list of most-commented-on articles of the year, including the Daily Grind on lockboxes and gambling.

So where do we draw the line between gambling and hobby gaming? Why are lockboxes acceptable? Are they really something MMO developers should continue to use in order to monetize their games?

I've done some research and even gotten some expert legal opinions about this based on American law (and some international), and I can't say I'm entirely happy about my results.
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How Pokemon Go should integrate Pokemon Sun/Moon

Say what you will about following tradition, but when I first heard more Pokemon would be added to Pokemon GO, the first thing I thought was, "Please, please don't add new 'mon based on generations!" Maybe you have fond memories of evolving the Magmar my generation loved into the abominations it became, or maybe you thought the elemental monkeys weren't lame. That's fine. We were all dumb kids who loved weird things. I won't judge you (too harshly, anyway).

But honestly, from a development perspective, and keeping in mind the Pokemon Company's theme of adding something new that targets first generation fans, I feel like Niantic missed some big opportunities by focusing on the old Generation 2 Pokemon when the new Pokemon Sun and Moon games are so ripe for potential expansion content.

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The Soapbox: Asheron's Call is dead, and Turbine killed it

You'd think recent news about Asheron's Call 1 and AC2 would be easy to swallow. After all, we'd already been warned that Turbine was becoming a mobile company. We lived through the end of AC1 updates and a desire to give players the chance to host their own servers. Heck, AC2 had died and resurrected. We've been living on borrowed time, but anything seemed possible. Despite the fact that Turbine's games were squeaking by (when not getting cancelled), I thought that fan power would lead the company to see what it'd done right (innovating MMOs) and where it had failed (straying from monthly updates and GM lead content).

Clearly I was wrong.

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New research suggests head-mounted VR sets are unintentionally sexist

A new research study conducted by University of Minnesota researchers Justin Munafo, Meg Diedrick, and Thomas A. Stoffregen says that head-mounted virtual reality is unintentionally sexist toward female users. At least, the paper, titled "The virtual reality head-mounted display Oculus Rift induces motion sickness and is sexist in its effects," says "unintentionally"; the title and abstract alone don't quite make that clear. Having procured a copy of the actual paper (unfortunately paywalled), we decided to explore the researchers' assertion and break it down to understand just what's at play here because my gut reaction was to be suspicious, likely the same as you.

See, I've been to a lot of VR demos, and I rarely saw people get sick from demos outside of the rare indie. In fact, I actually just had my sister try VR for about 20 minutes, and like me, she used to get sick from that stupid Kirby's Air-Ride game -- we both suffer from motion sickness. That made me wonder whether the results were more about VR's first-person perspective, as I know more women than men who have their motion sickness triggered by the perspective, in which case, it's not VR but the POV.

But now that I've read the paper, I have eaten my proverbial hat.

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Pokemon GO confirms rumors with Generation 2 update, 7800-store Starbucks rollout

The Starbucks leak is at least partially true: Niantic has confirmed that Pokemon Go has teamed up with the coffee company. Starting at 2 p.m. EST today, 7800 participating locations will become PokeStops and/or gyms, so you can get your coffee and screw around on your phone in a totally new way. One Reddit user has noted that the promised promotional drink is super sweet, but we've yet to hear anything about new Pokemon and their relationship with Starbucks. We have, however, heard some more news.

Sprint is also getting in on the Niantic team ups. Like Starbucks, participating Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Radio Shack shops are also PokeStops and gyms. While there was no mention of promotional drinks for these businesses, they are offering charging stations at least.

As some players have already noticed, the new update allows for some small quality of life improvements, from seeing the type of Pokemon you're fighting in gyms to sending multiple Pokemon to the professor for candy.

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Pokemon Go Starbucks Event and a possible new Pokemon are rumored for December 8

Starbucks Pokemon trainers (or friends of trainers) have apparently leaked images today that purport to reveal an upcoming promotional event for Niantic's Pokemon Go. While most of the document describes the game, how to make a Pokemon Go inspired frappuccino, how to handle the event, and what the game actually is, a few of the images contain much more revealing text.

While it's easy to get distracted by the drink and game descriptions, the very first line reads, "The world of Pokemon GO is about to expand with new Pokemon and a new Starbucks beverage!" and the note that the promotion begins with the new PoGo update on Thursday, December 8th (emphasis ours). Of course, this might all be subject to change if Niantic or Starbucks feel the leak threatens business, so we'll file this under rumor for now, but the pile of evidence is only growing in the meantime.

We also don't yet know whether the new Pokemon are Generation 1 legendaries (white and purple for Mewtwo?) or are related to the Generation 2 data previously mined. We'll just have to wait a couple of days to find out, and then? Frappuccinos for everyone!

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A Parent's Guide to Video Games: Condensing 'The Video Game Debate'

Remember The Video Game Debate? The game research book edited by Thorsten Quandt and Rachel Kowert, the latter of whom we've been covering here since Massively-that-was? Good. Dr. Kowert's got a new book out called A Parent's Guide to Video Games. I was sent an early draft of the new title for review purposes, along with some of the additions going in prior to printing. I originally thought it would be just an updated reworking of The Video Game Debate, but I was very wrong. Dr. Kowert's new book is much shorter and easier to access for the non-academic than the last one, which might make it even more useful for gamers who aren't in research fields.

As some readers may know, I spent the past several years in Japan, and while I was there, the only books I read were textbooks, research journals, and manga (language textbooks don't teach often teach you the slang you need to know to understand high school kids!). For me, The Video Game Debate was typical reading. And when the book came out, I recommended it friends and colleagues, but the journal format was a turn-off for way too many of them. That's what sparked the idea for me to dissect the findings over my series of articles here on MOP and apply them to topics MMO gamers (hopefully!) care about.

The same won't need to be done for Dr. Kowert's A Parent's Guide to Video Games.

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For Science: A third of our polled social media users quit Pokemon Go over trackers

Pokemon Go has received some large updates recently: the buddy system, medals, some big gym changes (twice), and now we've got dailies. We've been dazzled with two events granting bonus... well, everything, and yet, I've been noticing veteran players around me retiring anyway. Casual players are playing less often. During the Halloween event, I was surprised about the number of people that actually didn't return to the game!

Rather than go on pure anecdotal evidence, I conducted an impromptu survey on social media to get a clearer picture of why people quit the game before the November 0.45.0 update. Here are the results.

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Exploring real-life PUGs, the Plus, and the antisocial nature of Pokemon Go

Although Pokemon Go isn't advertised as an MMO, both experts and players have noted it does present some interesting similarities: Both have tons of players on servers where player locations are tracked. Both games task players with interacting with AI and (in simple ways) other players. And the game worlds in both are directly impacted by player action (remember, Pokemon Go is based on the Ingress map that was sourced out to the players).

Being an MMORPG site, we've talked about socialization and how it relates in particular to our genre. However, much like other modern MMOs, PoGo can lead to the sort of "alone together" situation that seems to eternally threaten our genre's relevance -- indeed, its existence.

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Comparing American and Japanese Pokemon Go culture

My previous article on the culture of Japan's Pokemon Go scene was written before I'd experienced much of the American one to keep my explanations as unbiased as possible. Although I was born and raised in America, I've lived in Japan for the past four years and mostly interacted with Japanese people, which has made my own meatspace culture a bit strange at times. From afar, I thought the PokeGo scene in America would be ideal for meeting new people, but oddly enough, I'm noticing there are far more similarities between the two cultures than I anticipated.

Before I go deep into my observations, do note that I'm describing my experiences in specific areas of Japan (Kanto and Kansai regions) and around the Los Angeles County area. I spent America's launch period champing at the bit with my Japanese students and co-workers plus three weeks of release, while my time in America has played out amidst reports of the game becoming less popular, totaling over three weeks as of this writing. I also must admit I'm going through some reverse culture shock that I'll try to address. Your own experience may vary depending on where you play, when you play, and with whom you play.

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Exploring Japan's Pokemon Go culture

As some readers may know, I've spent the last few years in Japan trying to tackle the local gaming scene, online and off. While Japan may be the birthplace of gaming, it doesn't always feel that way, especially for a western gamer. The large amount of gaming swag, existence of Akihabara as a geek Mecca, and emphasis on large, difficult multi-player experiences masks underlying cultural norms that make nearly all hobbies as an adult something of a private matter. While MassivelyOP's coverage of Pokemon Go makes the game seem like an international socialization sensation, there are specific practices that make international scenes somewhat different from how our readers in North America and Europe may experience them in their part of the world.

Japan's PGO culture in particular may be somewhat different than expected, so before I really experience how things are in America, I want to describe what I've experienced in the series' birthplace.

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Five IPs that could tackle ARG gameplay features Pokemon Go lacks

Following the news that Niantic is not in fact working on a Harry Potter AR game, I realized that even as someone who enjoyed the first three books and most of the latter movies, I don’t think the Wizarding World would quite work well as an AR game. Though I'm spending far too much time with it at the moment, I know Pokemon Go would be a textbook example of what not to do with a game if it weren't for its IP power. The thing is, Pokemon works on several levels: It's something people grew up with and played together. It has a very international world. And sure, maybe the Harry Potter Go story was believable because it was a big IP with “Go” attached to the end, but realistically, I could barely imagine the game.

There are other implementations, however, that I cannot not only imagine but crave.

MOP's MJ tackled this topic once before and focused on two MMO IPs -- The Secret World and EverQuest/Landmark -- and how they could tie ARGs back to themselves, something that even Nintendo hasn't shown signs of doing (they can't even manage to ship their accessories on time). So instead, I want to focus on older, everyday-life, internationalized IPs, and I’ve got a few ideas I’m willing to give away to any big CEOs that may happen to visit our site, free of charge!

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