Week 8: Digital Urban Gaming

I interviewed my friend, female, mid-20s who works in digital marketing and lives in Berlin. She did her undergraduate degree in Brighton and moved here from south Germany to do so, before moving to Berlin for work. Having experienced new urban environments, both in different countries and cities, I wondered if Pokémon GO! As a locative interaction was used to “promote discovery and use of spaces” or “a method of narrative feedback for players providing a voice for comment on their local area.” (Foth, Hudson-Smith, Gifford 21-22: 2016)

It was clear from her comments that, despite what the reading suggested, for my friend the use of the game was a “dichotomy” between ‘offline’ and ‘online’ worlds. (11: 2016) “I feel like I paid less attention to whatever was going on around me” she says, when describing her experience of playing Pokémon GO! “For me, once I got familiar with my space, I decided that I’m not going to pay attention to my surroundings too much. If it’s an area that I’m not familiar with, I would not use Pokémon GO!” This contradicts the theories that location-based games (or, at least, Pokémon GO!) can be used by players to become more engaged with their environment and gain ‘civic capital’. (15: 2016)

My friend’s experience falls more in line with Hjorth & Richardson (2017) suggesting that Pokémon GO! Is “manifestly ambient […] embedded in our daily routines.” (5: 2017) She says: “I guess a lot of it had to do with routine tasks, useless tasks, walking to the train station, walking to dinner […] that tend to be boring, but you make it fun.” Interestingly, my friend spoke not of her surroundings or her location but how she used the game “to bridge time, getting from A to B […] time went by faster when you played it, once you are familiar with the space.” The game was used more to change my friend’s experience with the time that it took to pass through urban space.

I revisit Foth, Hudson-Smith and Gifford who opened their paper: “top down deployment of these large and proprietary technology platforms may fail without a thorough understanding of the socio-cultural nuances of how people navigate and negotiate different urban environments.” (3: 2016) After speaking with my friend and knowing the success of Pokémon GO! It could be concluded that the makers of Pokémon GO! Have a thorough understanding of these nuances, but these nuances may, for the most part, have little to do with encouraging players to interact with and ‘experience’ their surroundings.


Foth, M. Hudson-Smith, A. Gifford, D. 2016. ‘Smart cities, social capital, and citizens at play: a critique and a way forward’ Research Handbook on Digital Transformations Edward Elgar Publishing ltd.

Hjorth, L. Richardson, I. 2017. ‘Pokémon Go: Mobile media play, place-making, and the digital wayfarer.’ Mobile Media & Communication Vol. 5 Issue 1, pp 3-14.

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