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Pokémon Go: blurring the lines between games and reality

Signal of change / Pokémon Go: blurring the lines between games and reality

By Alisha Bhagat / 03 Aug 2016

Pokémon Go, the world’s first free, location-based, augmented reality game, launched in July to much fanfare. Players around the world quickly started playing the game and it has been downloaded over 75 million times. The game is seen as groundbreaking as it is the first augmented reality for a mainstream audience and doesn’t require special equipment. Players must use their smartphones to move around in the physical world and interact with their surroundings in order to play the game. Pokémon Go has been praised for making people more active, but also criticized for making players unaware to the dangers in their environment.

So what?

Pokémon Go has tangible sustainability benefits. It makes people go outside and be active, thus improving health. Players are rewarded for walking around and finding local landmarks and are exposed to new parts of their community. Players visit “poke stops” in the game and these are tied to businesses and other landmarks. Businesses near poke stops have seen more foot traffic and public parks have had more visitors.

There is a lot of focus on the downsides of the game – people have already been robbed or hit by traffic while playing. Additionally, players have been criticized for playing in inappropriate places such as cemeteries. However, these seem to be isolated. While it’s true that it can be odd to see people stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to catch Pokémon, it is no different than people glued to their phones in any other public place.

What is interesting is the use of augmented reality and the potential the technology has to engage users and present information in an interesting way. Within the framework of the game, people have already tied in-game actions such as hatching an egg, to positive real-life actions such as walking a shelter dog. Augmented reality can encourage people to visit new places or find out more about the world around them. It is exciting to see what new applications of this technology will emerge.

Image credit: Troy / Flickr


Tobias van Schneider (July 13, 2016) What We Can Learn from Pokémon Go 

Telegraph UK (July 26, 2016) Pokémon Go: What is it, how to play and everything you need to know

Leon Kaye (July 22, 2016) How Pokémon Go can Inspire Sustainability and Community Development

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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