The Cosmog's out of the bag on the nominations for this year's Game Awards and there are quite a few noble contenders for the available titles. Among them is #PokemonGO, nominated for Best Family Game and Best Mobile/Handheld Game.
For those who are unfamiliar with the basic descriptions for these categories, here they are straight from the official site:
- Best Family Game - Best game appropriate for family play, including toys-to-life, rhythm/music/dance, and other genres.
- Best Mobile/Handheld Game - For the best game playable on portables devices, including mobile phones and dedicated gaming handhelds.
Here's what I think: Pokémon GO simply should not win.
I know you're probably hurting, but bear with me. This isn't about its serious pay-to-win status or even a value judgment on the game as a whole—I don't necessarily think that Pokémon GO is a bad game... but it's not award-winning either. The game shouldn't win in either category but it most certainly shouldn't win in the Mobile/Handheld category, and I think you might agree. Think about it...
Pokémon GO Is Pokémon Lite
Pokemon GO is and has been essentially a watered down version of the Pokémon games. After my first few days playing, I found myself closing the app and returning to my copy of Pokémon Y. Nowadays, I only ever open it to see if something's changed.
A lot of us found the momentum created by our friends and the Pokémon GO community to be enough to motivate our own active participation. But what was there to look forward to? Why would any current Pokémon player want to play this? The augmented reality screenshots of your catch were fun the first two times but, after a while, you've seen it all. Seeing Zubat in your trashcan starts to get old and the gimmick is hardly enough.
The social aspect outside of sharing photos and achievements is non-existent and the game is actually less about collecting Pokémon and battling and more about leveling up—something that becomes hard to do as the game goes on (in a bad way). Supplementing this with some kind of quest mechanic, or something constantly accessible whether you're moving or not, would be a good start, but I don't see that on the cards.
This isn't really a first for publisher Nintendo—I would also call Miitomo a watered down version of Tomodachi Life and I'd be surprised if Super Mario Run wasn't another 'Lite' meant to drum up enthusiasm for an upcoming major release. Don't get me wrong though, I would be thrilled to be proven wrong on this, but the notion stands.
Pokémon GO Is Kind Of Broken
Slow-to-never loading maps, failed catches and teleporting avatars are only a few of the issues that have become standard parts of GO's gameplay. When you're in a building you can never really be too sure if a PokéStop is near you are not. If you lean a certain way or hang out in a corner for a second, you might get lucky with your wandering avatar getting just close enough. In other cases, you might get a giant glow-y ball thing instead of a Pokémon when on the Catch screen. Nothing a hard reset won't fix but, in bulk, these things are a problem.
While the game is adorable when it works, it's downright frustrating when it doesn't. For all the effort that it requires to play, that frustration can be the bane of the player experience—something to make you wonder whether you're playing a Niantic game or a poorly skinned geocaching affair.
The Pokémon GO Plus Device Has Been A Failure
The Plus device could have been the game changer that GO desperately needed. It has some (two) great features:
- PokéStop Alerts - Visual and tactile notifications for nearby PokéStops and the ability to search them.
- Nearby Pokémon Alerts - Visual and tactile notifications for nearby Pokémon and the ability to throw poké balls at them using the button on the device.
Unfortunately, Nintendo failed to meet the demand for such a device and has subsequently stopped producing them all together, leaving fans merely speculating about a return or revamping of the Plus experience. The one thing really setting this game apart in terms of bringing us closer to the Pokémon experience is no longer a reality for most players hoping to take GO to the next level.
Pokémon GO Is Not A Mobile Game
Pokémon GO is a crummy mobile game because it's not a mobile game. I accept that this is probably going to be the most unpopular argument that I make. I am also going to say that I probably understand and agree with quite a few statements that could be posed to refute this. However, I think that, in Pokémon GO's case, this is important because unless I missed the memo, it's not a fitness tracker—it's a game.
There are fundamental issues with its model that make it an unfit competitor in this category. While Nintendo has really set the bar for incorporating activity into your game-time with things like StreetPass, its line-of-thought here isn't totally compatible with the quest for the perfect mobile game. Even StreetPass gives you plenty to do when you aren't out meeting people!
Sure, the hallmark of mobile gaming is its portable nature, but Pokémon GO isn't real-life portable. When there is no movement, there is no gameplay. This is a game that will struggle in the winter when you can't (or don't want to) go outside, and it is a game that becomes boring when you try to use it while you're in the waiting room at the doctor's office, or when you're a passenger in a car.
Where Does Pokémon GO Fit In, Then?
A more viable competitor for Pokémon GO might be something like Zombies, Run. If there were a category dedicated to video game adaptations of the Geocaching hobby, GO would have a nice comfy home there along with Ingress and Shift. These are games that name and embrace their reliance on the experience created by the player without posing as something else.
It could be argued that Pokémon GO got away with (and continues to get away with) a lot of rookie mistakes that an indie game or otherwise non-AAA level title would really suffer for without this super-IP behind it.
Many people say that Pokémon Go was never meant for hardcore gamers. That may very well be—but most of the games in this category are for gamers.
As of right now, I don't see Pokémon GO (or any of Nintendo's future releases) transcending this unbearable cycle of half-baked "Lite"-ness, and it's for this reason that I think it would be a shame if GO took home this award over others or even the unsaid fourth that would have replaced it had it not been nominated in the first place.
Of course, the gaming world will voice it's judgment on the matter on December 1st during the 2016 Game Awards, streamable on most devices from 8/9c.
How do you feel about it? Does Pokémon GO deserve its nominations, or can you think of a better fit in either category?