How ‘Pokémon Go’ upended traditional video gaming behaviour
Here’s how to spot Pokémon Go fanatics in a crowd: young or old, in work clothes or casually dressed, they all walk around with their eyes fixed to their smartphone screens, feverishly swiping like they’re performing a ritual.
Pokémon Go is the latest, hottest augmented reality (AR) game. It confers each player the title of ‘trainer’ and tasks them with capturing fantasy animals called Pokémon that are located all around us. Utilising smartphones’ GPS trackers and an interactive map, players are required to physically walk around to catch Pokémon, battle them against others, and stock up on resources such as Poké-balls. PokémonGo has turned our world into a massive hunting ground, with local landmarks and businesses becoming places to capture virtual monsters.
The game defies the behaviours associated with traditional video games. Instead of being idle in one room, players are forced to explore the (mostly) real world to catch Pokémon. They walk around, interacting with other people and the world around them.
Businesses have also capitalised on the game by transforming their restaurants into Pokéstops, or dropping Lure Modules, bringing valuable resources and Pokémon to their location and thereby attracting players. This simple act has generated a huge increase in sales for some businesses. The owner of New York pizzeria L’iniizo Pizza Bar paid US$10 to drop lures to attract a dozen Pokémon into his shop. The result of this small investment was a 75 per cent surge in business. Some players are even going to the extent of hiring strangers on Craiglist to go Poké-hunting in their car – a great new business opportunity for services like Uber.
An official partnership with McDonald's Japan has just been announced, sending the restaurant chain's share prices soaring.
But of course, the game has its dangers. Many players have become obsessively sucked into the game’s vortex, affecting public and personal safety. Examples include a car crash, two teenagers walking off a cliff, a stampede in Central Park (after a rare Pokémon appeared, inciting thousands to rush to the location in the middle of the night), and a Florida homeowner shooting two men after mistaking them for burglars.
Downloads of Pokémon Go have exceeded top grossing apps, signalling a strong future for AR games. Yet while Pokémon Go is an exciting way to blend the real and the virtual, the game poses an existential question: will the physical world become inseparable from the digital world?
Image source: Contently
- Article by Marguerite Vernes and Mei Yeo