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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thailand - It’s all go with Pokemon Go

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The augmented-reality game takes Thailand by storm
AFTER BECOMING an instant hit with gamers in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Europe last month, interactive augmented reality game Pokemon Go finally landed in Thailand earlier this week and quickly brought pedestrian traffic to a standstill as residents of all ages took to the streets to locate and capture the virtual creatures.
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Of course, there's nothing new about the adorable mouse-like monster Pikachu and his friends. Older gamers will remember them well from the role-playing video games developed for the Game Boy back in the 1990s. Now, though, the game is using the mobile phone's camera and gyroscope to render a live background, making players feel that they are encountering a Pokemon in the real world.
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Developed by Niantic Lab, an internal startup within Google, this new mobile application is designed for IOS and Android devices and took over from Niantic's initial trans-reality game, called Ingress. Fun and creative for youngsters and adults, there are 151 Pokemon to catch based on their move set, behaviours and where they live. A gamer is called "trainer" and can create an avatar by designing its hairstyle, skin colour and outfits. More than 100 million gamers around the world have so far downloaded the free application.
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This virtual game uses the Google Maps database to show the locations of PokeStops. These provide players with items like the Poke Ball, monster eggs and potion. In other countries they are often discovered around sculptures and monuments but in Thailand you can find them at spirit houses and shrines, which explains why some young trainers spend their days hovering around temples. Bangkok's gigantic shopping malls, parks and office buildings - even The Nation's office building on Bangna-Trat Road - are converted into gyms, where trainers at level 5 can send their monsters to improve their skills on the battleground.
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Pokemon fans have already set up a Pokemon Go Thailand Fanclub on Facebook to serve as a community for like-minded folk Led by someone calling himself Admin K, this page is designed to help update new movements and guide players through the technical terms.
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"I played Pokemon on Game Boy 20 years ago. When I grew up, I wondered when it would become available on a mobile phone. I heard that Niantic had teamed up with Nintendo and Pokemon Company in the middle of last year and have been looking forward to its arrival ever since. My friends and I set up this page in February for fans of the Pokemon game to learn more. I think we are already the biggest community of Pokemon Go gamers with more than 140,000 followers," Admin K says.
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"I love the Pokemon Go concept of combining reality and fantasy. We are all familiar with the Pokemon characters. You just say 'Pikachu' and people know what you're talking about. The selling point of Pokemon Go is that groups of monsters are randomised to appear in several places and there are rare monsters that are specific to each continent," he continues.
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"But I'd like to caution players about the need to stay safe. Don't try and catch monsters while you're riding or driving. Parents should take care of their kids and guide them to play the game in the right way."
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Nat, a 30-year-old entrepreneur, was a Pokemon fan back when it was played on Game Boy and has been following the news about the Pokemon Go App since it first leaked two years ago.
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"I had a chance to play Pokemon Go when I spent a holiday in Scandinavia last month. It's an interactive game and great fun. It brings people together. You can smile at a crowd of strangers in a park while catching a Pokemon and they smile back. You can use AR technology to capture a picture with monsters," Nat says.
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"I worry though about the emotional quotient of Thai gamers. We should focus on safety first and foremost. The number of downloads is falling because there's no new content. But I've heard that Niantic is developing a battle system and gamers can trade their monsters with friends too."
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Kusuma Pholthampalit, a Thai student in the UK, is another keen trainer.
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"The app wasn't available in the UK at first so my friends linked our account to a server in Australia and New Zealand. Now, the game is very popular here. I'm at level 22 and I like this game. Normally, I'm very lazy about moving around and this game pushes me to walk. When we get a monster egg, we have to walk between two and 10 kilometres to incubate it, which has to be good exercise. The game also forces us to travel around town because PokeStops are often at well-known tourist attractions like churches, art venues, museums or even convenience stores." Kusuma says.
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"However, we should play it the right way and be concerned about safety too. I know in the UK some people have been hit by a car because they keep looking at their phones to try and capture a Pokemon."
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Citing public concerns of potential dangers from the popular game, Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecom Commission (NBTC) recently urged US-based Niantic Inc, to consider removing Pokemons and so-called PokeStops from certain places, including footpaths, railroads and canal banks as well as from temples, pagodas, schools, hospitals, and government and military buildings. The NBTC also urged the developer to restrict availability of the game at night to prevent children suffering accidents in public places.
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At a forum at Chulalongkorn University titled "Where Pokemon Go Will Take Thai Society" last Thursday, adult psychiatrist Dr Puchong Laorujisawat of Chulalongkorn University's medical faculty, pointed out that the key to preventing people from causing problems for themselves or others while playing the game was basic self control.
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"If one does not have discipline and self control, no matter which games are introduced, there will be a problem," Puchong said.
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Associate Professor Panrapee Suthiwan, a psychologist specialising in child and adolescent development, noted that the game could also bring parents and their children together.
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"We can turn things around by playing with children and teaching them how to play without causing problems. We can use the game as a link between parents and children. There are good and bad sides to Pokemon Go but we just have to pick the way to use it wisely," Panrapee said.
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Entrepreneurs have been quick to jump on the Pokemon Go bandwagon. Pong, who works as a marketing officer in Nakhon Ratchasima, has set up a TaxiDriverPokemonGo page on Facebook to offer taxi services starting at Bt100 for a motorbike and Bt280 for a car per hour.
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"I noticed young gamers always ride a motorcycle to catch the monsters. Because they are not concentrating fully on the road, they might get into an accident. It's better to have a driver take them," Pong says.
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The people behind the popular GrabTaxi mobile application have also recognised the game's potential and have introduced a special promotion called Grab Go that offers a free service for three hours for touring around town to capture a Pokemon.
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In Phuket, meanwhile, the Phuket Tour Holiday travel agency offers a city tour that takes gamers to find a Pokemon in several popular spots. The fee ranges from Bt1,900 for a sedan and Bt3,500 for a van for a six-hour service.
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Next month, Nintendo will be launching Pokemon Go Plus, a collection of Bluetooth low-energy wearable devices that allow players to perform certain actions in the game without looking at their smartphone. The device will help users get items from the PokeStop and vibrate when a Pokemon is close by.
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Source: TheNation.com
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