By Ian Jones @IDJONESPHOTOG
I got sucked into the Pokemon Go phenomenon a couple of weeks ago. It was fun but short lived. The system hiccuped and I lost everything. It was annoying, but I shed no tears. It only sort of worked for me.
Being a wheelchair user, I have to wait until I’m at a table or desk, or I’m otherwise stationary to play Pokemon Go. That sort of defeats the big purpose of the game: to get people moving. The game uses augmented reality to allow players to “catch” various Pokemon characters wherever you’ve got the app open. Swipe up, and you might catch a Charizard, a Squirtle or the famed Pikachu.
I caught around twenty Pokemon, mostly several of the same character (Ekans, for those who are curious). I didn’t grow up with the cartoon or card game, so I wasn’t sure which were rare and which were commonplace. I guess I’d have learned if I’d re-enrolled and stuck with it, but it seemed that the able-bodied players had more of an edge, so I lost interest pretty quick.
I’ve got it pretty easy, too. I have vision problems, but I wear glasses. I can see the screen. I have good hand dexterity, so I can flick the Pokeball near the character. People with quadriplegia, or conditions like cerebral palsy may not be able to do that.
Niantic Labs could have designed the game differently, some people say. Steve Spohn of AbleGamers, a disability inclusion organization, says they “could have easily enabled options” like allowing “one-button Pokémon catching, remote travel, and hatching eggs on a timer,” for example. There’s definitely a huge demographic that Niantic seems to be ignoring.
Sure, if a Pidgey appeared at the top of a hill, I could hand my phone to a friend and have them go get it, but then, it wouldn’t exactly be me playing the game. I’d have to give up my independence. Of course, people do tend to play the game in group meetups, so I may be missing the point entirely, but I kind of feel left out by the game’s mechanics.
For me, a fix would be a headset, sort of like Google glass, but an add-on like that would probably be expensive. I’d gladly wait for that until they updated the game to be more inclusive of disabled players. I’ll sit this one out, I think, and hit the real gym.