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What’s that design choice?.... It’s Pokewalker!

How the Pokewalker gets people thinking more about their own abilities instead of their Pokemons.

 This post was originally published on my personal blog about games design Heaven Twiddling.
The more a game keeps you involved away from the screen the more it becomes a part of the your life. Its why games companies are putting Twitterand Facebook into their titles, some even have their own social networks. They want you to be thinking about the game wherever you are.
Game Freak have taken another approach to keeping us involved once the power is off, they made the Pokewalker. Essentially a pedometer come Tamagotchi with a couple of built in mini games that can interact with the DS via infrared. The Pokemon philosophy is here in spirit allowing players to catch more ‘mons and interact with friends walkers. All of these can then be pushed back into the DS for your main game.

At first this doesn't seem like much of an innovation, especially considering the game it connects with is already fairly portable, but after a few days with the device you start to see the clever intricacies that make it unique.

While Pokemon is a great hand held game that can be played in small sessions or epic marathons, the Pokewalker allows for real microgaming. Whether you are waiting for someone to pick up the phone or walking between rooms this device gives you a small hit of Pokemon in a matter of seconds. You are never more than a couple of button presses away from catching a new ‘mon or finding a rare item.

The real genius of the Pokewalker is that it actually IS a pedometer. It does seem trivial at first, but every step in real life grants my pocket monster 1 game XP. Each step also increases my chances of finding a rare Pokemon or item. Its cheesy but that one to one ratio does create the nice illusion that you are out walking with your favourite Pokemon, making you more connected to the game and your virtual pets.

More importantly it started making me think about where I go and how I get around, I have even found myself thinking about going jogging just to get more Watts (the walkers currency).

Just carrying it with me everyday has made me more aware of the amount of steps I do on average. Most days only around 5,000 well below the 7,192 average for a man. I’m slightly embarrassed to reveal how lazy my days really are and while the Pokewalker wont make anyone fit, it does make people more aware of their daily exercise. How many games can you think of that really make you aware of your daily routines? More importantly how many games can you think of that appeal to kids and make them think about how much exercise they have?

So I commend Game Freak and Nintendo for not only making a great example of extending play into daily activity but by making people a little more aware of themselves.

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