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The company behind Pokémon Go has a Harry Potter game in the works — here are some unsolicited suggestions from a Potthead

Dear Niantic: Please don’t screw this up.

Outlook hazy, try again later
Warner Bros.

Like the entire world, I played Pokémon Go — for a couple weeks in the summer of 2016. I’ve been told that game has gotten better since then and that there are diehard fans still playing it.

Good for them! I’ve moved on to other mobile time-wasters (lately: A lot of HQ, #freescott).

But the company that made Pokémon Go a megahit, Niantic, said something a couple weeks ago that caught my attention in a big way: It’s working on a new augmented reality mobile game based on the Harry Potter series called Wizards Unite. And it recently raised $200 million in new funding to help it develop that title.

All seven Harry Potter books and the DVDs of all eight movies are within eight feet of me as I write this; I am one of the series’ unabashed and diehard fans, a cult which some refer to as “Pottheads.” As you might imagine, I have thoughts on this game.

So here, completely unasked for and likely undesired by the company, are four suggestions for making Wizards Unite something that I will play for more than half a month.

Make it about learning

Niantic has already confirmed that Wizards Unite will let players “explore their real-world neighborhoods” and that they’ll “learn spells” over time, which sounds a lot like how Pokémon Go encouraged players to explore the real world to catch Pokémon. But I sincerely hope the learning process is actually a process.

Routinely throughout the “Harry Potter” series, the students would try and fail to perform the spells they were being taught. Think Ron’s struggles with the levitation charm wingardium leviosa, or Harry’s repeated attempts to conjure a Patronus in “Prisoner of Azkaban.”

In Pokémon Go, catching a Pokémon was mostly up to chance, although you could spend money to buy items to make catching a Pokémon more likely. To catch ’em all, you needed luck — and a whole lot of free time — rather than skill. In Wizards Unite, it would be refreshing to try and learn spells, have to practice them and finally unlock them when you’ve mastered each feat.

Give us a challenge

Another of my petty gripes with Pokémon Go was the way battles against other human players worked. At least during the launch period when I was playing, “battling” would’ve been better described as “frantically tapping on the screen.” The strategy of the original Pokémon games for the Game Boy was nowhere to be found.

With its concept of wizard’s duels, “Harry Potter” is another franchise that lends itself well to players battling against other players. As with spells, I hope the developers at Niantic and Warner Bros. are putting serious thought into how to make this both fun and challenging. If I win a duel against a friend, I want to be able to lord it over them because I was, obviously, a better wizard; winning because I could tap really fast is no fun at all.

Manage the mischief

This one is a no-brainer: The interface of the Wizards Unite app should resemble the Marauders Map, as depicted in the best of the “Harry Potter” movies, “Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban.”

For those who haven’t watched the movie in the past month, the map looks like an ordinary piece of parchment until the magic words are spoken, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” Once activated, the map shows the footprints of every person in Hogwarts ... a creepy invasion of privacy, sure, but one that makes it perfect for a video game based on your smartphone’s location.

And, of course, there should be penalties for players who close the app without saying the words that turn the map back into parchment, “Mischief managed.” I look forward to riding trains full of people whispering that into their phone’s microphones.

Scare us

As a member of the first Harry Potter generation, one of my favorite aspects of the book series was how their tone got darker and darker over time. With the staggered release schedule of each book, this evolution perfectly matched my own maturation into an adult who was eager to graduate to fiction that would challenge my worldview or even scare me.

Niantic promises the new game will let players “team up with others to take down powerful enemies.” At this stage of development, they have to be intentionally vague on certain facts, but I hope that’s a vague understatement. I want to be convinced that my continuing to explore the world of the game is part of a story with stakes, and that my failure to do so would affect more than Niantic’s profits.

Apps are great at distracting us, educating us or making us laugh. But I would love to see Niantic take some pages from the books of J.K. Rowling and give us a narrative that frightens us and makes us talk. “I can’t believe that happened!

But honestly, I’m a Potthead, and there are lots of us out there. Whatever they deliver, we will play.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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