As of the publication of this column Wizards Unite has been out for just over a week. For those who may not be in the know, Wizard’s Unite is a Harry Potter themed augmented reality game created by the same people who brought us the Pokemon Go craze. By no means does this new game seem to have brought hoards of people to whatever you favorite spot happens to be like Pokemon Go did. The initial download numbers for Wizards Unite don’t compare to what the previous game brought in. However, I would contend that Wizards Unite is a more immersive, more fun game that does an excellent job bringing one the most beloved fictional universes of all time into our world.
Now, admittedly I am biased. I enjoyed Pokemon Go for about a week, but I’m just not a person who grew up on the Pokemon franchise. Harry Potter on the other hand, is absolutely one of my favorite fictional worlds. The way the Wizarding World seems to exist just underneath our own, behind brick walls, secret entrances, and on the other side of portkeys is a truly magical idea.
And what Wizards Unite does is open that door for us. As you stop by downtown spots or stroll around Claremore Lake you won’t just find kids playing, but also werewolves (if the moon is right) and wizards. There will be trolls, pixies, and out of control bludgers. You’ll get to see some of your favorite characters and their iconic moments recreated on the grass you just walked on. If you want a window into this world, all you have to do is point your phone in the right direction, cast the right spells, and there it appears. In many ways, AR games were made for this kind of universe, one that implies that we never know what might be hidden in plain sight.
Another great thing Wizards Unite does, that Pokemon Go did not, is give us a narrative. This makes sense of course. Narrative is literally the thing that turned us into Potterheads in the first place. But I appreciate that the creators knew that fans would want more than to just collect some cool wizarding objects or rescue Ron Weasly from a Boggart. We want to know what’s still happening in the Wizarding World. Those people who long to see some of their favorite characters show up will, for the most part, not be disappointed.
Of course, some may find the idea of myself and some friends wandering around town with our phones pretending to capture misplaced magical objects, people, and creatures a little silly. The Pokemon Go craze certainly received its fair share of critique and not all of it was unfounded. But if the choice is staying in and watching that same episode of the Office again, or maybe even hearing those same people yell at each other on your news channel of choice, perhaps getting some friends and going to the park isn’t so silly after all. We will be interacting with each other. We will be cheering each other on. And in the end, that’s not such a bad thing at all.
Strange Perspective is a unique weekly look into today's pop culture by Progress columnist Rachel Strange.