John Hanke: Creator of Pokémon GO

John Hanke: Creator of Pokémon GO

John Hanke: Creator of Pokémon GO


JULY, 2016

By JiaHer Teoh

For now, Pokémon GO is still a no go in Malaysia. An official statement from – a Niantic representative – stated that “The team is currently heads down working on the game. We do not have any announced plans for countries beyond New Zealand, Australia, US and Germany at the moment.

Fret not, for there is still hope that you’ll be able to catch ‘em all soon. Word on the street suggests that Pokémon Go aims to be released worldwide by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, here’s a little background on John Hanke – the creator of Pokémon Go, the first MMO (Meridian 59) and Google Maps.

Cover of the PC game – Meridian 59

Back in 1996, John Hanke worked on what is often credited as the first graphical MMORPG – Meridian 59. Like augmented reality, massive multiplayer online games hadn’t really taken off and developers were still trying to understand what worked and what didn’t. Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs), an early foray into massive multiplayer gaming often constrained itself to being text-based. This breakthrough was built upon by many others, with World Of Warcraft (WOW) dominating today’s market.

Despite the exponential adoption of Pokémon GO, this might only be a spark in the explosion of augmented reality games in the near future.

In fact, Pokémon Go is only the second game to have been released by Niantic Labs. Their first, Ingress, was released in 2013 and garnered over 7 million players.

The functionalities of Ingress and Pokémon GO are similar, but Pokémon GO has a nostalgic allure for the 20 – 30 year olds who are thrown back to their Gameboy and Nintendo DS days.

Another similarity you might take for granted is that between the map on these two games and Google Maps. One might imagine that the similarity ends with the fact that an augmented reality game of this scale would of course have some working relationship with Google but the truth is much more.

Promotional graphic on the Ingress official website

© Niantic Inc.

© Niantic Inc.

Niantic Labs is formerly owned by Google and is still invested in by them. And it doesn’t end there. Founder and CEO of Niantic Labs, John Hanke, was also the founder and CEO of Keyhole, which was acquired by Google and had its flagship product renamed and developed into what we know as Google Earth. Google Maps, and Google Street View.

Getting to know PM2.5

Getting to know PM2.5

What is PM?

PM is short for “particulate matter”. It refers to particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. Particles can be suspended in the air for long periods of time. Many man-made and natural sources emit PM directly or emit other pollutants that react in the atmosphere to form PM. These solid and liquid particles come in a wide range of sizes. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen – like soot or smoke. Others are so small that individually, they can only be detected with an electron microscope.

What is the difference between PM2.5 and PM10?

PM is usually measured in two size ranges: PM10 and PM2.5.
PM10 refers to particles with diameters that are less than or equal to 10 microns in size (a micron, or micrometer, is one-millionth of a meter), or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

PM2.5, also called “fine particulates,” consists of particles with diameters that are less than or equal to 2.5 microns in size. That’s about 1/30 the diameter of a human hair. PM2.5 is a more serious health concern than PM10, since smaller particles can travel more deeply into our lungs and affect your health.

Where does PM2.5 come from?

Fine particles are produced from all types of combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, volcanic eruptions, dust storms and some industrial processes. Some are emitted directly into the air, while others are formed when gases and particles interact with one another in the atmosphere.

Why is it so dangerous?

The health effects of PM10 and PM2.5 are well documented. Over-exposure to PM increases the risk of heart and lung illnesses and can reduce an individual’s lifespan. Alarmingly, there is no evidence of a safe level of exposure or a threshold below which no adverse health effects occur.

Numerous studies have linked long-term particle pollution, especially PM2.5, with significant health problems including:

  • Increased respiratory symptoms, e.g. irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Decreased lung function
  • Aggravated asthma
  • Development of chronic respiratory disease in children
  • Development of chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive lung disease
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nonfatal heart attacks

Premature death in people with heart or lung disease, including death from lung cancer Short-term exposure to particles (hours or days) can:

  • Aggravate lung disease causing asthma attacks and acute bronchitis
  • Increase susceptibility to respiratory infections
  • Cause heart attacks and arrhythmias in people with heart disease

Even if you are healthy, you may experience temporary symptoms, such as:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath

How can I find out about PM2.5 level in my community?

Unfortunately, unlike neighbouring Singapore and even Indonesia, Malaysia does not publish any PM2.5 data.

While the Department of Environment (DOE) Malaysia releases its Air Pollutant Index (API) readings taken at 52 stations hourly, the air pollutants measured do not include PM2.5. The five pollutants currently measured are ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and PM10. The pollutant with the highest concentration is then taken as the API reading and this is usually PM10.

The DOE in its website said it is in the midst of finalising the new Malaysian Air Quality Guidelines to include the standard limit of PM2.5 in the ambient air based on World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2006 guidelines. “Subsequently, we will need to come up with a PM2.5 Air Quality Index System and data integration with the existing system in our Environmental Data Centre (EDC) prior to including it in our API calculation.” Adoption is likely to happen by end-2016.

How does our API readings compare with, say Singapore?

Singapore uses the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) which measures what Malaysia’s API does, plus PM2.5. Both Malaysia’s API and Singapore’s PSI are standards developed for measuring pollutants by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and have similar categories — a reading of 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51- 100 ‘moderate’, 101-200 ‘unhealthy’, 201-300 ‘very unhealthy’. A reading above 300 is ‘hazardous’. But a straightforward comparison between them will be like comparing apples to oranges.

Reading for API
0 – 50 Good
51 – 100 Moderate
101 – 200 Unhealthy
201 – 300 Very Unhealthy
Above 300 hazardous

As Malaysia does not measure PM2.5, its API shows substantially lower readings. This creates a more positive but ultimately illusory picture of the state of our nation’s air quality.

Blueair Aware

Be Aware of Indoor Air

What can I do to reduce exposure to PM2.5 when the haze is bad?

  • Stay indoors in a room or building with filtered air. PM can get indoors, so consider getting an effective air purifier. Air cleaners that remove particles include high-efficiency mechanical filters and electronic air cleaners, such as electrostatic precipitators
  • Keep your activity levels low. Avoid activities that make you breathe faster or more deeply to reduce the amount of particle pollution you inhale into your lungs.
  • Don’t add to the air pollution. Avoid using anything that burns, e.g. cigarettes, candles, incense.
  • Keep the indoor environment clean but don’t vacuum unless your vacuum cleaner has high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filters. Otherwise, you will just stir up the particles already inside your home. Wet mopping can help reduce dust.
  • Don’t rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from small particles such as PM2.5. Scarves or bandanas won’t help either. Disposable respirators known as N-95 or P-100 respirators will help if you have to be outdoors for a period of time. It’s important that you wear the respirator correctly, however.

Blueair’s HEPASilentTM filtration process captures 99.97% of airborne particles down to 0.1 micron in size

Blueair’s HEPASilentTM filtration process captures 99.97% of airborne particles down to 0.1 micron in size

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How Ash in Pokémon is secretly the creator himself

How Ash in Pokémon is secretly the creator himself

Pokémon has once again become a worldwide sensation, and the franchise may actually deserve all the attention it gets, wrapping a massive 20 years success. In the midst of the late 90’s, Nintendo launched the first two Pokémon games, Red and Blue, designed almost entirely by Satoshi Tajiri, who founded Game Freak, a small team that published gaming magazines at that time. Funded by Nintendo after pitching the idea, Satoshi went to create one of the most iconic franchises in modern entertainment.

Hardest decision.. ever. The good ol’ starters. Charmander remains my favourite.

What makes Pokémon so immense?

The man himself.

The whole franchise was inspired based on Satoshi himself. The small pixelated character known as Red in the earlier games, was a younger version of Satoshi. As you navigate him out of Pallet Town into the wildness of Kanto, accompanied by a seamless background tune, you begin to experience the vastness of his childhood imaginations. The name Pokémon was derived from “Pocket Monsters” because it was introduced for the Gameboy, a device which you carry in your pocket. However, Satoshi may have more reasons.

As a child, Satoshi was carefree. He spent most of his time outside, collecting insects and small creatures. He was always excited to see different insects in other parts of the town. He would walk to the ponds and find water insects, he would pick up sticks to inspect them, and find insects in the there. He would sometimes catch them, and place them in small capsules, or boxes, which later he carries around in his pocket. Satoshi successfully embedded the same element of discovery into the game. In the games, you would only encounter Pokémons in tall grass, ponds, or caves and just like insects, sometimes you run into a swarm. Apart from the main character, you will also meet a fellow trainer, a Bug Catcher by the name of Tajiri. As a child, Satoshi was nicknamed “Dr. Bug”.

Satoshi Tajiri

Satoshi Tajiri

Pokémon Creator, CEO of Game Freak

Just like Pokémons, the characters evolved as well. 

Remember the bug catchers? 

Home sweet home...

Satoshi grew up in Machida, which makes the greater part Tokyo metropolis, and located in the central Kanto region of Japan. In the first generation of Pokémon games, you will begin in a region which most players thought was called Indigo, due to the Indigo Plateau. However, Nintendo later confirmed that the region was called Kanto. The Kanto region in the game is not only identical to the actual Kanto region in Japan by name, but also geographically almost entirely. You begin in Pallet Town, which was a model of Shimoda City  (Satoshi’s hometown). As you venture out, you will come to Celadon, a bustling city which was inspired by Shinjuku, the commercial center of Tokyo. Life was different here, and Satoshi was saddened by the changes his hometown endured, as buildings sprawl up, covering places he used to hunt for insects.

The Kanto region. The game music plays in my head everytime I see it.

Satoshi’s mom was a housewife, and his father worked for Nissan. Growing up, Satoshi had a few disagreements with his father especially about his career choices. His father wanted him to become an electrician, which Satoshi was not at all interested. He also suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, that fans speculate might have caused both his hobby for collecting bugs and his distance from his father. In the games, you will start at home, and you only see Mom, and the father was not around. You will later defeat the father in a high ranking Pokémon tournament.

There are no proper time reality in the games, as Red doesn’t need to sleep, eat or rest. Satoshi is famously known for sleeping for 12 hours and work the next 24 hours. He is used to the idea of a continuous process, and has been working that way until now.  

Just like dad? 

Shimoda City a.k.a Pallet Town, where Satoshi grew up. 

Gotta catch 'em all!

However, Red was not the name we all remember. The anime series introduced Ash Ketchum, and his buddy Pokémon, Pikachu, a story of his journey to become a Pokémon Master.

The name Ash was derived from the Japanese version of the character, also named as Satoshi. Ketchum was simply taken from the tagline of the show, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!”.

Shigeru Miyamoto

Shigeru Miyamoto

Creator of Super Mario Bros, Nintendo

Seen together rivals, Satoshi a.k.a Ash and Shigeru a.k.a Gary 

Ash’s rival in the series was named Gary, which was derived from Shigeru, a reference to Shigeru Miyamoto, who designed Super Mario Bros (1985), and was a mentor to Satoshi. Satoshi admires Shigeru, which he admits that he will never be as good as him.

The confession.

There might be a be a lot more of his childhood elements in Pokemon games and animes, but Satoshi was not a big fan of the spotlight. In an interview with Time magazine in 1999, Satoshi admitted that the character was himself as a kid.

TIME: “The main human guy is named Satoshi. That’s your name. Is he your alter ego?”

Tajiri: “Basically, he’s me when I was a kid.”

The Pokémon universe is riddled with lores that date as far as a few thousand years before the story of Red unfolds. There still many mysteries that surrounds certain aspects of Pokémon, and fans have been generously introducing theories to explain many, one includes a theory that Ash might be in a coma the whole time the anime series took place!

Satoshi Tajiri is currently the CEO of Game Freak and still works with the Pokémon franchise.

“Can you catch 'em all?”

Celebrities are playing Pokémon GO too!

Celebrities are playing Pokémon GO too!

The newly launched, augmented reality game, Pokémon GO, has recently taken the world by storm, with the average time users spend on the game daily surpassing both Whatsapp and Instagram. According to data from SimilarWeb, Pokémon GO has already been installed in five percent of Android smartphones. As a comparison, the popular dating app, Tinder, is installed in two percent of smartphones. It’s good to know that most people have their priorities straight.

And it’s not just a bunch of nerdy high school students who dream of being the next Ash Ketchum either. Multiple celebrities have taken to social media to express their newfound obsession with the game.

Of course, it’s no surprise that Zack Martin is a fan.

Even Chrissy Teigen is a player!

The game, currently only available in Australia, New Zealand and the US, is set to launch in Europe and Asia not long from now.

The struggle is real for Wiz Khalifa.

Guess Luna Lovegood enjoys interacting with strange creatures outside the world of Hogwarts too.

Trevor Noah has had some awkward encounters.

‘Gravity’ singer, John Mayer spent almost a hundred dollars to advance the game quicker.


A photo posted by johnmayer (@johnmayer) on

Getting Bulbasaur as his starter Pokemon was a proud moment for Nyle DiMarco.

Following reports that a woman, on her quest to find her own Pokémon, had come across a man’s corpse, Joe Jonas might not be wisest.

Is it really a shock that most people find delight in catching Pokémon in real life though? The game, which has already given Nintendo’s stock a huge boost, was clearly headed for success.

And for all you grown-ups out there who still think this is just a boring old kid’s game, Trevor Noah sums it up best:

Which team are you?

[interaction id=”57860dc8eaef76d524b7cff9″]

Hasn't decided yet?

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A Story of Faith, Sexuality, Art and Activism

A Story of Faith, Sexuality, Art and Activism

Extracted from MALAYSIANS KINI, a series on Malaysians you should know.

I just happened to become a Christian

while I was in Singapore at the age of 14, but I eventually found that it conflicted with my parallel discovery and awakening of my sexuality.

My last year in Singapore, I found a Christian ministry who, in their words, wanted to heal their sexual brokenness, so I joined them.

But when I came out to my father as a Christian, he didn’t like the fact that I’m a Christian, so he brought me back (to Malaysia) so he could monitor me closely.

I was so miserable NOT going to church

that it reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore, so I had to come out to my father. So I told him, I’m gay and the reason I’m going to church is because I want to be straight. So you choose, gay or Christian.

I didn’t envy my father’s position at that time.

I found a church which had been trained by the ministry in Singapore,

so I joined them and became very active. It was a kind of catharsis, for the anxiety I felt struggling against my sexuality.

I poured myself into the theatre of the church, but it turned out that even after I’ve done a lot of research on the scripts, poured myself into it, in the end, they would change my scripts quite drastically.

After three years of that, I got quite bored of it, I was being quite diva, you know. I started to think that maybe the church, in a sense, doesn’t really want my individuality. In fact, it probably wants conformity.

I kept in touch with some of the people

who were in the ministry in Singapore, and one guy called Clarence went on to start a positive and affirming fellowship group for gay Christians, after he left the ministry.

One day, I went down to Singapore and talked to him. I was starting to doubt my faith so I told him about a thought experiment I did.
I told him that I had this thought: what if I’m truly alone in the universe, what if we’re all truly, truly alone. I had a sensation of freefalling through the universe, through the dark, through a black hole.

He said, maybe God is not an entity that you imagine him to be. Maybe, as you’re falling through the universe, the universe is God for you.

That really freed me up to reimagine my relationship with everything around me. It also freed me from thinking of God as an entity that I used to imagine him as.

I'm not terribly upset that I became a Christain.

I needed that (at that time). It kept me sane.

Many years later, I decided it (struggling against my sexuality) wasn’t working. If it’s true that by becoming gay, I was going to be miserable and hate myself, it’s also equally true if I continue battling my sexuality.

I had these two equally miserable prognoses for my life. I didn’t take the Harry Potter advice, I took the easier path.

I said to myself, I have not tried living as a gay man. And now, I’m not miserable anymore.

Eventually, I had to come out to my parents

(as gay and not trying to be straight). My father said, this does not make him happy. Then I said, you know what, I can, of course, continue pretending to be straight, pretend to like a woman, get married to her, but for the rest of my life, I will have to shut up this part of my heart and lock it in chains, and I will not be happy.

Then I said, you know what, I can, of course, continue pretending to be straight, pretend to like a woman, get married to her, but for the rest of my life, I will have to shut up this part of my heart and lock it in chains, and I will not be happy.I will not be able to truly love her, and she will not be happy because I cannot give her what she wants. If we have children, they will also be unhappy.

I will not be able to truly love her, and she will not be happy because I cannot give her what she wants. If we have children, they will also be unhappy.

How much unhappiness will it take for you to be happy, I asked my father.

My mother said, if you get married and you have children, there will be someone to take care of you and you won’t be so lonely.

“So I looked at her and said, you’re married, you have children. Do you dare tell me you’re not lonely?”

We’re all lonely, but we can still be here for each other. I have learned to be independent and through my independence, I have learned that the best way to deal with my loneliness is to learn to be alone.

Because loneliness is actually not isolation from others, it’s isolation from yourself. It’s when you’re alone and you’re confronted with who you truly are, and you hate who you are and you cannot stand yourself, that’s when you feel loneliness.

When Seksualiti Merdeka was banned in 2011

and my picture was splashed all over (the media), the next day my cousin helpfully called my parents and said, ‘Aunty, you know your son is wanted by the police’.

That was when I was outed as an activist.

Their (My parents) reason for being very upset that I’m an activist were very different. What my father said (after that) revealed to me that he doesn’t understand yet. He said, ‘What am I going to tell my friends?’

It meant he didn’t respect me at all. I didn’t feel very sorry for his predicament at that time. But it turns out a few of my father’s friends were quite supportive. I suspect a few of them talked to my father about it.

My mother said, if you’re taken in by the police, I don’t know what they’re going to do to you, and I don’t know how to protect you.

I became angry that this country has frightened my mother into feeling so helpless.

Ultimately, that’s what all mothers want; to be able to protect their children, but this country has taken that away from our mothers.

I told my mother, is it reasonable to be living in fear in your own home, in your own country? It’s not right, and that’s what I’m doing about it.

A lot of people do come to me

when they need someone to talk about LGBT issues, and I’m happy to talk when there’s no one else who can do it. I do also try to tell people, can I connect you with someone else who would have a different perspective?
It’s a bad, bad situation but I also understand why some people cannot really come out. The cost of social alienation is very high and I think society teaches conformity through the threat of alienation.

I'm happy to also say

I know a lot of young LGBTs today who are actively doing what they can, where they can, (and) providing space for each other.

This is where I think it’s really radical: when a person who is considered an imperfect citizen, extends his hand and creates a space for someone else, automatically then the two of them, what they’ve done is that they’ve carved a citizenship of themselves in that space. (They are) offering (each other) a space to be themselves.

It doesn't have to just be a space for LGBT.

Your activism can be about LGBT but it doesn’t have to be limited to that. You can do something for refugees, women, etc. Just be involved at every level, because what they want you to do is to run and hide in your private space so you leave the public sphere. But the public sphere is where you are able to decide what you can do in your private space.

This is why I’m excited that even as a gay man, I have skills to create space for other people, and also why Art for Grabs is very important to me.

I'm aware of my privileged status today

as someone who is living relatively middle-class. I have different circumstances from Muslim gays, the LGBT poor, women and trans people. They all have different issues, because of different circumstances. Wealth and connection (also) have something to do with it.

I also get annoyed with wealthier LGBT people who say you just need to work hard and prove yourself and then no one can touch you. It’s this illusion that the capitalist market allows us to buy into, and it leaves those without the connection out there to fend for themselves.

We tell them, you just need to work harder, but some of these people have three jobs. You cannot tell them to work any harder.

Trans people are very well-connected around the country.

Unfortunately, with the other issues, it’s harder. Urban LGBT are so much luckier than those in the rural areas. I constantly get stories of rural places, where they’ll lock their lesbian daughter in the house and things like that.

Seksualiti Merdeka came about

because at that point, we ran an art gallery and we had space. That time we were planning Art for Grabs on Aug 31, 2008, which is how it got its name Seksualiti Merdeka.

Well, I mean at least the government is using the word LGBT now (after Seksualiti Merdeka). I admit this acronym does not completely capture the diversity of sexuality and gender expressions and identity, but it’s better than songsang, pondan or bapok.

I'm very happy for (people) when they want to get married,

but I also feel that marriage is not the ultimate goal for LGBT rights.

The problem of the US promotion of same-sex marriage is that very much of it is banked on the idea that marriage allows us to marry into equality, instead of the fact that you can get married because you are already equal.

The issue is this: people think of marriage as an expression of love, but is it? Can’t you express love without marriage?

The discourse of marriage ends up marginalising unmarried gays. No other kinds of narratives are allowed. The inequality here is between unmarried and married people.

I'm not naive enough to think that we need to get rid of marriage.

I just think that with marriage, a lot of gradiation of possible relationships we can have with one another becomes impossible.

Love is anarchic.

Love breaks rules and it makes us break rules, but we’re so afraid because society keeps telling us that only these form of relationship is acceptable, then they create a whole system to reward this type of relationship.

The discussion around marriage is partly because of the stupid policy of hospitals only allowing next of kin (visitation and legal rights), but why can’t this document be ascertained between two best friends?

(For example), at the end of the life of a person who doesn’t want to have anything to do with his family, the hospital will still invite their family to decide on his life. How cruel is that?

I said in my post ("A ‘party’ at Sentul police station") that being in Malaysia sometimes felt like being in the wrong place and wrong time.

But I thought about it, and that’s what they want you to feel.

We just have to keep doing what we can, until this country becomes the right place and the right time for us, whenever that may be.

We are filled with idealism at this point. Right now, we think we can make a difference so we try.

Maybe one day, I'll give up,

and I hope people don’t judge me too harshly when that happens.

Pang Khee Teik

Pang Khee Teik

Pang, who is gay, is prominent for being outspoken and vocal about LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) issues in Malaysia.

The Wonders of Indoor Plants

The Wonders of Indoor Plants