What if Pokemon Gyms were real?

What if Pokemon Gyms were real? This question inspires a part of my vision in game design research.

Think about it for a moment. Can you image a world where the Pokemon you encountered were determined by where you were, as opposed to where your character was? A world where players could run their own gyms, in a similar fashion to the way that you created a game server, and players could only visit the virtual world by stopping by a real coffee shop mapped to your gym. A world where getting the exclusive Pokemon from a specific place in the world meant forming a trade network inspired by the historic silk-road, a trade route supporting the exchange of culture and material.

There is something powerful in the locatedness and situatedness of this kind of game. The internet has empowered us to play with friends from all over the world and removed the barriers in play, for example by playing a match without being together or trading items over large distances. On the other hand this has also changed the nature of these interactions. It is now easier to play online than to travel to a friends place or the arcade. It is easy to trade an item through an auction house with someone half way across the world. I feel like this has taken some of the richness out of the experience of playing and some of the side-effects that come with it, such as the location-based communities that form around games and the play that can be trading.

Geographic distance can bring meaning to a game through scarcity and exclusivity. I want to re-envision a world where nearness matters - sharing a game with someone means sharing a disc or a memory card, trading a Pokemon means using link cables, etc. That the wherever you are has an impact on the game you played, such as the CDs you physically owned meant you could recover particular creatures in Monster Rancher. But I want to do this moving forward.

To this end, this is an embrace of part of the ubiquitous computing and ubiquitous games philosophy, where games become omnipresent. In some ways I would say this is inspired by slow food, especially in its embrace of local. This is also a rejection of the internet of games, and the internet-of-things influence ubiquitous computing. Not only are the games and their respective technologies to be located and ubiquitous, but their communication, their networking is to be located. This is ultimately a world where games connect with each other only in nearness, using cables or wireless ad-hoc networks.