New York Film Academy hosted its first ever Pokémon Go hunt this month at the Los Angeles campus. About one hundred students, faculty, and fans joined Creative Director at Niantic Labs and Game Design Instructor at New York Film Academy, John Zuur Platten, to try and catch ‘em all.
Throughout the evening shouts of, “I leveled up,” “I just took this gym,” and “Oh my god, it’s *insert favorite Pokémon here*” filled the air. In the end, someone took over two gyms, several eggs were hatched, and a Bulbasaur made a surprise appearance just as the event wound down.
The event then moved inside for an industry meet and greet. Game Design students snacked on Poke Ball pizza while talking shop. Ideas for future games were exchanged as well as talk about whether virtual reality or augmented reality would be a better sell to the gaming community.
Finally, it was time for the main event. Platten threw away the traditional Q & A process and instead decided to have an open forum, allowing anyone to ask a question as it came up. An excited buzz ran through the audience as Platten began to break down the ins and outs of Niantic.
The majority of the talk was focused on Niantic’s breakout game, Ingress. Ingress shares many similarities with Pokémon Go, but instead of three teams, there are two: The Enlightened and The Resistance. Each team is trying to own portals that pop up all over the world. The Resistance wants to keep whatever’s trying to come through the portal out of their world. The Enlightened believe there’s something to be gained from whatever’s trying to come through.
There’s no violence within the game and, like Pokémon Go, the players don’t have to interact with one another to play. In fact, many fans of Ingress don’t play the game. Instead, they head online, where Niantic has created a wide series of gaming extras. This includes YouTube videos, comics, and short stories that tell extra parts of the story. This media is often cryptic mysteries that participants can solve, netting their team extra points.
Like Pokémon Go, Ingress has lots of fanatics. People make flags, costumes, and pins with the team’s sigils and show up for mass real world meet ups. Fans also have a civil service side. Many have seen encouraging memes asking players to drop lures outside of children’s hospitals so the very ill can play. Platten recalled a story where a famous Ingress player in need of a wheelchair received one through community donations and support. He recalled another story of an autistic teen who was barely able to leave his room until Pokémon Go was released. That teen’s mother said she felt as if she had gotten part of her son back. “That’s a pretty great magic trip,” Platten stated.