Where did Pokemon Go ?
CROWDS that once stood in front of Mahabandoola Park have dispersed. The parking lot in front of City Hall no longer teems with hordes of teenagers staring at their phones. Yesterday, in front of Shwedagon Pagoda’s east gate, nobody wandered in and out of traffic with their noses in an augmented reality. It leads one to wonder: what the Psyduck is going on? Just two months after the Thailand launch of Pokemon Go began leaking over international borders and into Myanmar app stores, the once feverishly popular smartphone game has almost disappeared from the pop zeitgeist. In August, people couldn’t get enough of the game that let them “catch” little Squirtles in the bushes by the Secretariat. Now, in October, it seems that even Ash Ketchum couldn’t be bothered to catch any of them – let alone “’em all”.
The Myanmar Times caught up with 27-year-old model Myint Myat Thawdar, who started off as an ardent fan before drifting away from the game about a month ago.
“I quit playing because it isn’t interesting anymore,” she said, adding that it affected her work when she stayed up too late playing at night. “I also almost got in a car accident while playing, so I decided to stop.”
Seems as good a reason as any, especially considering that billboards advising players to abstain from the game while driving have popped up in high-profile locations, such as Sule Pagoda Road near the Bogyoke train station.
For Hnin Oo May, who also played the game avidly before quitting, dangers while driving also played a factor in her decision. She said that her only free time tended to come while driving, which led to risky behaviour. More than danger, however, it was the game’s sheer unsustainability that turned her off.
“It drained all my battery and my phone died in the middle of the road,” she said. “That obviously affected my ability to work.”
The game also seemed to grow boring, as people continued to collect the algorithmically spawned creatures with no real objective. Pokemon
Go became scarcely different than a never-ending scavenger hunt, with no puzzle to be solved or objective to be reached.
“I played it since the day it became available in Myanmar, but now I haven’t played for three weeks,” said Ko Thaw Zin, a 29-year-old system engineer. “I felt bored of the game. The updates didn’t add much. I will waiti til next year for the generation two update.”
The generation two update will reportedly enable gamers to have augmented-reality “battles” between their Pokemon with friends and strangers. But Nintendo has yet to announce a release date, and for now, it looks like Pokemon Go will remain more-or-less unchanged until the new version arrives. That’s just fine with players such as Ko Thet Oo, who The Myanmar
Times identified as one of the few fans still playing. He said, proudly, that he has collected all but three of the Pokemon types available in Myanmar. A level 30 hunter, he’s not planning to stop any time soon.
“I like the game, and I’m still excited to play it even if others have stopped playing it,” said the 28-year-old graphic designer. “I want to be a strong Pokemon master when they release the new version – then I can be a fighter.”
Ko Thet Oo added that those who quit likely gave up because of the effort involved: Part of the game, after all, was the “go”.
“Some people who lived far away from PokeStops don’t want to go out when they run out of PokeBalls. Maybe they felt bored when they couldn’t catch Pokemon at home, so they quit,” he said.
Whether the Pokemon feel neglected or liberated by their sudden unpopularity is unclear. Pikachu could not be reached for comment, and reports of a forlorn Jiggly Puff near St Mary’s Cathedral could not be confirmed at press time.
One of Yangon’s last remaining Pokemon Go players sits in solitude at Mahabandoola Park.
What was once an avid community of fans has dwindled to a few remaining stragglers and their virtual pets.
It appears that the massive popularity of Pokemon Go was more effervescent than eternal. Some players say they are waiting for a new release of the game that will add more interesting features.