Pokemon Go is a location-based, augmented reality game played on smartphones, using cameras and GPS, allowing players to “catch Pokemon in the real world.” (Pokemon Go, 2017), and described by Hjorth and Richardson as a “cultural moment.” (Hjorth and Richardson, 2017: 4).
I interviewed a male journalist in his late twenties about how he experienced his urban environment playing Pokemon Go. He described the game as “blurring the lines between digital and the real world.” (Interviewee, 2017), as Foth et al reinforce, mobile, locative games augment the physical space. (Foth et al, 2016: 16-20).
The interviewee blamed his love of the game on “nostalgia,” growing up when the Pokemon craze began (Interviewee, 2017), something Hjorth and Richardson reiterate. (Hjorth and Richardson, 2017: 4).
Hjorth and Richardson believe smartphones have a “deep impact on everyday media and play practices.” (Hjorth and Richardson, 2017: 7). Amongst the game’s benefits, the interview listed being able to play on your phone and exploring the city, praising Pokemon Go for turning “your neighbourhood into a playground.” (Interviewee, 2017). Hjorth and Richardson echo this, “as media become more mobile and playful..we increasingly interweave our everyday experience of place with playful virtual elements.” (Hjorth and Richardson, 2017: 6).
At a Pokestop in Brighton, the interviewee explained he saw a statue he never noticed before, stating the game taught him more about where he lives. (Interviewee, 2017). This links with Foth et al’s idea of urban games giving players a new way to experience their environment and aa renewed sense of value and appreciation. (Foth et al, 2016: 17).
Pokemon Go’s popularity is most likely linked with it being set in an environment the player already feels connected to and, as Foth et al explain, has “potential for socially reflective comparison.” (Foth et al, 2016: 20). However, there are concerns with locative games due to the player’s data collected and their vulnerability to theft or crime. (NSPCC, 2017). The interviewee suggested he would talk strangers playing Pokemon who he would usually ignore. However, this connective feeling is contradicted by the isolation those less mobile may feel.
Foth, M., Hudson-Smith, A. And Gifford, D. 2016. Smart cities, social capital and citizens at play: A critique and a way forward. Research Handbook on Digital Transformations. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing. Pp. 16-20.
Hjorth, L. And Richardson, I. 2017. Pokemon Go: Mobile media play, place-making and the digital wayfarer. Mobile Media and Communication. 5 (1). Pp.4-7.
Interviewee (anonymous). 2017. Personal communication. Interview conducted 23/03/17.
NSPCC, 2017. Pokemon Go: A parent’s guide. NSPCC. Available at: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/pokemon-go-parents-guide/ (Accessed 23/03/17).
Pokemon Go. 2017. Explore. Pokemon Go. Available at: http://www.pokemongo.com/en-uk/explore/ (Accessed on 23/03/17).