The Social Brilliance of Pokémon Go
I am not a gamer. Sure, I play Words with Friends, but “real gaming”, as my son would put it? No way. Until Pokémon GO.
Launched a mere week ago byNiantic, in a partnership with Nintendo, as a project originally funded by Google, Pokémon GO immediately caught on fire. In this interview with the CEO, John Hanke, he talks about the idea behind the game, and how it all started with an April Fool’s joke! It’s no joke now. Already daily users surpass Twitter and time spent in the game exceeds YouTube, Instagram Facebook or What’s App!
Why the fascination?
There are probably already plenty of people studying the psychological aspects but here’s my take on it. This is truly a social game. This morning I got out of the house to play and took a walk around our neighborhood park. Pretty quickly I started running into other people playing too, and it instantly created a feeling of community. Some laughed when they realized others were playing and said hello or at least smiled at each other. They struck up conversations or “battled” it out in the Pokémon GO gym. The feeling of community in a real world setting may be just what we need right now.
I’m not alone. Neither are you
One of the differences about this game from console or desktop games is it acts as an introduction to total strangers in real life. This is a game for all ages, races, religions and cultures. It brings us together around a common and relatively benign game with no guns or war or brutality involved. In these times we need something to bring us together as human beings, and if a cute game on our ever-present smartphones is what it takes I’m all for it.
I almost ran into a young black woman who was playing and walking and we struck up a conversation. She told me it was the first time she’d been out of the house in a week, and we talked for a bit about how we had both been affected by recent events. Laughing together over learning the game, even talking about the weather opens our hearts in ways that a console game never can.
A couple was practicing Tai Chi while their 10-year-old ran around the park catching Paras and Magmar and then ran to show me her list of capturedPokémon.
I passed 10 or more people who were playing and we smiled and nodded or struck up a quick conversation about the game, the weather, their pets or recent events.
My son and I walked for a couple of miles last evening playing and encountered whole families playing together with random strangers clustering around PokeStops. Age is not a barrier withPokémon GO.
As w walked last night I realized I’d forgotten to wear my fitbit and I didn’t care. You see, you have to move around to hatch the eggs you grabbed at the last stop. You find more wildPokémon if you keep moving. Not only did I get out of the house and meet new people, I got some exercise too. Win-win all around.
Businesses and Nonprofits opt in
It’s been absolutely amazing to see how quickly this has been adopted by businesses and nonprofits too. There are countless stories on social media of art galleries, museums, coffee shops, restaurants food banks and even animal rescues offering dogs to walk with while playing. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a social game take off like this. Have you?
How to playPokémon GO
There are a lot of tutorials popping up already, and the game is already evolving, so this is just a tip of that iceberg.. Honestly, it’s really simple or I wouldn’t have figured it out! The documentation on the game is minimal so here are the basics. Follow these tips to get started, then go to some of the tutorials to get the finer points.
Download the game to your iOS or Android device. It’s best if you create a “Trainer Account” to preserve your personal privacy, though the makers of the game now say they’ve fixed an issue with iOS devices when registering with Google accounts that gave too much access to personal information to the app.
You’ll modify your avatar to look more like you and then you can start the game. You’ll be given the choice of aPokémon to start with, and if you walk away from the initial choices 4 times you’ll be able to select Pikachu! Now you’re ready to play.
Walk around in populated areas and keep an eye on the real-time map of your location and where you are in relation to various landmarks. (Don’t forget to pay attention to your surroundings at all times!) Your phone will vibrate or make a sound to let you knowPokémon are near. To capture yourPokémon you swipe your PokeBall up towards the creature. Each will be surrounded by a circle of light. Inside it will be a circle of green, yellow or red. Each color has a difficulty level in captring, Green is easiest, then yellow, then red is hardest. Wait for the inner circle to get smaller before you throw for best results. If you miss, and your PokeBall rolls off, tap them to recover the ball and try again. If you catch your critter the ball will wrap around thePokémon and you’ll see a screen telling you about your new catch.
As you walk, you may see PokeStops, indicated by blue cubes on your map. PokeStops are locations where people gather. Running trails, parks, restaurants and shops are all likely locations and businesses are quickly adding PokeStops and using Pokémon Lure modules to attract Pokémon and customers inside. PokeStop locations hold a variety of items including Pokeballs, lucky eggs, and Razzberries and other items. When a PokeStop is in
PokeStop locations hold a variety of items including Pokeballs, lucky eggs, and Razzberries and other items. When a PokeStop is in range you can click it and see a disc in the middle displaying a photo of the location. Spin it and you will be rewarded with some bubbles filled with items to collect. Click the bubbles to pop them and add the items to your collection. The stop will turn purple, and you will have to wait 10-15 minutes to come back and collect more items.
OK, that’s all I’m going to go into here. As I mentioned, what fascinates me is the cultural aspect, so get out there and explore for yourself! I’d love to hear your experiences or links to posts about the social aspect in the comments.