Pokemon Go for Professionals

Coloring Book

Coloring Book! Creative Commons Copyright Elizabeth Albert https://www.flickr.com/photos/elizabeth_albert/5027163965 edited for size and to remove name on drawing

If you haven’t played Pokemon Go yet, you might be making a mistake. Especially if you are a design professional. Even more especially if you ever deal with the planning and design of people’s environments.

When was the last time you explored where you live with a fresh set of eyes? I know I stopped exploring  where I live years ago. By explore, I mean wandering around like I would when I’m a traveler in a new city. My lack of exploration of my home is in part because I’m goal driven, and I haven’t set goals that relate to wandering around and (re)experiencing the world immediately around me.

I typically explore when I hear of a new restaurant or destination, when we have guests in town, or during that rare instance when we choose to get out and do something we normally wouldn’t do. Like play Pokemon Go downtown.

Humans like reward. That’s why the concept of gamification can be quite successful. Pokemon Go is fascinating in that as the first truly successful augmented reality effort, it’s turned the world around us into a game’s playing surface. There are now new rewards for people to walk around and explore their environments. As a design professional, if you don’t understand and ‘get’ what this means… you’re doing yourself a disservice.

I’ve been playing Pokemon Go distractedly since shortly after it was launched. My wife loaded it onto her phone recently. We decided to go downtown yesterday and enjoy wandering around as we played the game. We drove and parked on the edge of our city center, and started walking. We developed a system for how we’d order our meandering:

  • Walk up and down the streets.
  • Within each block, we’d go to the Pokestops and try to avoid looking too nerdy.
  • We’d be unable to look anything but nerdy when we encountered Pokemon that we would then need to trap in a Pokeball. (swiping fingers on our screens)
  • We would linger at any Pokestop that had a lure activated, hopefully having it coincide with a beer and some food.

Many of the Pokestops in downtown Anchorage seem to be focused on art. We stopped a few places in the museum’s garden, and realized that we hadn’t been there in a long time. We took a bit of time to enjoy, and get some pleasure in seeing the work of friends. Around downtown, we found pokestops for art that we didn’t know existed. We walked places that we might never have walked. We looked at buildings and spaces, and learned the name for art where we have not known the name before. All the while, we had the overlay of the fun of pursuit of playing a game and the rewards within it.

KEY#1: Pokemon Go provided us with a form of tour guide that took us from place to place, with a focus on art. Since that aligns with our interests, the game provided us with a meaningful service. (note: in Hood River, Oregon… many of the pokestops focused on historic buildings.)

We stopped in for a coffee at Side Street Espresso, and as we passed Darwin’s… someone activated a lure on Darwin’s Pokestop. That drew us inside for a beer (close enough to noon to be okay).

KEY#2: Wise businesses realize that Pokemon Go exists and can be used to their benefit. We would not have stopped in at Darwin’s at that time of day if a lure hadn’t been activated. We came in, spent money on beer, and had fun.

As an augmented reality game, Pokemon Go is simplistic and in an infancy of potentials. As someone who works with urban design and planning (with a goal of engaging people into their environments), there is a fascinating potential for delivering information and the potential for interaction. At the moment, most players use Pokemon Go to “catch ’em all”, so it’s highest cultural success is likely getting people out walking. But, what’s next?

KEY#3: We went downtown with the sole purpose of meandering and catching Pokemon. We learned some things about our city in part because of Pokestops, but more so because we actually went downtown! It took a reward to get us to do that. In the future, when augmented reality tools incorporate different levels of reward, tied to local opportunities and knowledge, then they move beyond augmented reality into integrated reality. A logical step for that would be to require interaction (knowledge or activity) to get the rewards at a Pokestop… rather than just swiping the screen.

Pokemon Go is a digital treasure hunt. A pub crawl. First Friday art walks. Any community event with the goal of offering something in return for effort. It’s just a new approach to getting people out. I find it funny that many people and professionals dismiss or even sneer at Pokemon Go… as they miss the point. The point is the opportunities that it alludes to… and… fun.

Original posted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/pokemon-go-professionals-peter-briggs


About the Author: Peter Briggs is a landscape architect who has a current preoccupation with the business of design. For more bio information, please see: www.highestexpertise.com/who-is-peter/