A game that can alter people’s behaviors and routines is certainly worth investigating. Pokemon Go, a new Augmented Reality (AR) and geolocation game on mobile devices is such a game. It’s amazing to watch students and even staff at the university I work at glued to their mobile devices and congregate around poke stops throughout the campus trying to catch Pokemons. Through social media and from conversations with other friends and colleagues, it’s been interesting to observe the different reactions to the game, both positive and negative, and the issues that have been raised about the game itself. Here are just some of the observations:
- The game has brought opportunities for some to interact with others they would normally not have any interactions with. A colleague of mine shared a text from his son describing how through the game, he has interacted with different people from different backgrounds throughout the city he lives in as he shared game strategies with those he met.
- Accessibility issues have been raised as a problem with the game. The premise of the game is for players to physically move to locations to collect Pokemons, battle at gyms, and travel distances for eggs to hatch. Folks who are physically disabled are not able to participate causing these folks to be depressed and creating barriers for disabled players.
- The game also highlights some issues related to race and safety. This topic is poignant given the last few days wherein the country is facing issues related to race and violence. For Black folks playing the game, there is unfortunately the element of fear as they could be met with suspicions leading to lethal consequences.
- Many folks have also been observed driving while playing the game, which has introduced safety issue to both the driver and pedestrians as the driver of this car experienced.
- Privacy also became an issue as it was discovered that the game have full access to a player’s Google account.
- For some, the game has brought some benefits to mental and physical health. In addition, parents have also welcomed the game as it has provided their children incentives to go outside and get some exercise as well as the opportunity to spend time together as family.
- A few higher education institutions, such as Harvard and Maryland quickly adopted the game as part of their marketing and student engagement efforts. However, a concern raised by a student affairs professional about the use of the game for student engagement is that this creates equity issues for students who either do not have mobile devices or for those that do have mobile devices, the game does use cellular data, if not connected to wifi, which costs money.
As one who studies the adoption of new technologies in higher education, Pokemon Go may have just accelerated the acceptance of Augmented Reality given the mass appeal among the public and changed the AR landscape. Hololens by Microsoft and other Virtual Reality devices and software should benefit from the popularity of the game. The game also benefits other related markets including mobile device batteries (the game drains the battery significantly) and cellular data providers as well. I also see possibility of the use of heads up display (hud) devices like Google Glass and other wearable computing devices for this game instead of players having their heads down looking at their phone to catch Pokemons, which could lead to neck problems. That the game offers in-game purchases also benefit app stores like Apple. Finally, advertisers and businesses will find ways to use the game to market their services and/or attract potential customers to their locations.
Whether the popularity of Pokemon Go is short-lived or extends for a few months, the game has provided some welcomed entertainment and distraction from the stressful times we are in at this moment as a country.