Dr Tom Philips

The next MediaCom Seminar will take place 4:00-5:30pm on Wednesday 8 February with Dr Tom Phillips from the University of East Anglia - all welcome.


Dr Tom Phillips (University of East Anglia)

The Geeks Come Out at Night: Understanding the Impact of Pokémon Go

In July 2016 augmented reality game Pokémon Go became a cultural phenomenon. Based on the 20-year-old Nintendo franchise, the aim of the game is to walk around real-world locations in order to capture monsters generated in the game “in the wild”. Using a smartphone’s camera, the app allows players to find Pokémon superimposed onto real spaces, with the aim to catch all the creatures in predefined geographical locations. This premise saw hoards of players take to the streets in an attempt to capture as many Pokémon as possible.

Following its launch, fervent media coverage spoke of the wide ranging impact of the game: cultural, social, economic, and even medical benefits were discussed, and the game quickly became one of the most popular in history, with the number of daily active users at times surpassing Twitter, Facebook, and Tinder. While later media coverage charts a downward trend in users, this paper captures a moment in time when Pokémon Gowas at the height of its popularity, using interviews with players in  order to understand the game’s appeal.

Through ethnographic research conducted in July 2016 with Pokémon Go players in Norwich, UK, this paper uses interview data to unpack players’ thoughts and opinions on the impact of the game: how it can function as a method of social cohesion, and how it can provide a powerfully nostalgic fan experience. This paper reflects on how Pokémon Go provides players an opportunity to reconsider the landscape in which they are playing: reframing the city of Norwich in the context of the game, and the novelty of adopting a tourist gaze in one’s hometown.

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