The Pokémon Go Phenomenon
Everyone else is doing it — so I’m jumping on the bandwagon before it rolls out of sight.
Today’s post takes a look at Pokémon Go, an augmented reality (AR) game that became a runaway hit in the past week. I’ll discuss three types of events relevant to Pokémon Go, taking a close look at one of those types of events. The three event types are:
- Emerging tech nexus event
- Events with a primary focus on AR
- AR and social interaction
Emerging Technology Nexus
The public launch of Pokémon Go is a watershed moment for AR, an emerging technology nexus. A turning point for widespread understanding of what AR means. This smartphone game may become the killer app for AR. Watershed moment, nexus, turning point and killer app each have slightly different meanings, and I’m not sure which term is best applied to Pokémon Go.
But it is certainly more than just another time-killing cell phone game. This is even more than an interesting and engaging mobile game. It’s not just another Angry Birds, and it’s not Candy Crush. It could be bigger than Minecraft, which Microsoft bought for $2.5 billion. The true impact of Pokémon Go may end up being far greater than Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Minecraft AND Tetris.
It requires the key ingredient of time to know for sure if an event is a watershed moment, nexus or turning point. We need to know how much money the Pokémon Go franchise makes, how many people get absorbed into the game (you don’t just play a killer app), how many millions of hours per week the human race spends (wastes?) on it, and what subsequent games, AR applications and related technologies Pokémon Go gives birth to.
Once we can assess the long term results and impacts of Pokémon Go, we’ll know if this truly has been a momentous event.
The second type of event which could be part of the fallout from Pokémon Go is AR-focused events. This category of events could start out with ones centered on Pokémon Go itself. Local meetups of P-Goers. Regional events, such as a Pokémon Go convention or IRL MMO battle. Some type of LARP involving Pokéballs, Pokéstops, Pokégyms, and other essentials of the game. Or maybe none of those acronyms will stick or be pertinent. You see, watershed moments tend to spawn new acronyms and concepts.
There will undoubtedly be local events with hundreds of dedicated PokéPlayers. Events in major metro areas will draw thousands of fans, and Niantic will no doubt have teams of events wranglers figuring out how to facilitate real-time in-person gatherings of tens of thousands. It boggles the mind to consider the technology, game play, economic, and sociological possibilities involved in both those massive meetups and in the global game itself.
After the inevitable “trough of disappointment,” the Schumpeterian swarming of innovative people and startups inspired and motivated by playing Pokémon Go will kick off a wave of innovation in AR. Whether that wave will gather energy and build momentum depends on a multitude of unpredictable factors. But I know that trend surfers and AR aficionados will be catching the wave and riding it as far as they can. This wave has the possibility to be the epic wave of the decade, or it could fizzle out and be a disappointing ankle buster.
AR-focused events may be important for events wranglers in two ways. First, many large AR-focused events will need a person coordinating the event, taking care of details that won’t take care of themselves. Secondly, AR-focused events may create a whole new type of ice-breaker or relationship-building activity. If you’re interested in ways to spice up the social portions of your events, keep an eye on this type of tech.
AR-Enabled Social Interaction
The third type of AR event is a category which catalyzes and facilitates social interaction. This third type of event is one I feel holds huge promise for technology to have a positive impact on society. Pokémon Go-inspired location-based AR could be the key to creating beneficial social interaction in a world of smartphone addiction.
If you live in mainstream America or in other parts of the world with widespread prevalence of smartphones and ubiquitous cellular or WiFi internet access, you have likely observed smartphone addiction-in-action. This addiction takes many forms, but three common variants are:
- Parents with their kids
- Groups of friends or family
- Random people in public places
Parents & Smartphones
I can’t help feel smartphones and tablets are hurting parenting more than they’re helping it. If you look for this flavor of smartphone addiction, you’ll find it everywhere. Dads with their young child or children sitting at McDonald’s. Dad’s glued to his smartphone while his kid(s) sits quietly, munching on the meal, looking lonely and bored. Or lonely and sad, probably wishing that dad would pay more attention to them than to the stupid phone. Many of the kids are fidgeting or being downright disruptive to get dad’s attention.
It’s not all dads — you can find mom at Starbucks, drinking her caffè latte or frappuccino, intently posting on Facebook and checking out what other moms have said. Meanwhile, her neglected child or brood has to make do with the donut and juice box mom bought to keep them from getting too restless or bored. Some moms know it takes more than a donut and juice box, so they share their addiction and give their three-year old a tablet to keep them occupied (no cartoons on TV for them!) and give the eight-year old their own smartphone.
Friends & Family
Another addiction scenario is a group of friends or family members sitting together but interacting with their phones instead of the people sitting next to them. Well, to be totally accurate, many of them will be interacting with their phone AND with people next to them — via their phone. Texting, instagramming, snapchatting, FBing, tweeting, and other social media verbing. When observing a group of people gathered together but seemingly-separated by their mobile devices, one can’t help but wonder why they bothered getting together in one place.
At least one photographer has captured in pictures the apparent isolation that can be created by these small technological marvels which are intended to connect us. Eric Pickersgill’s photos captured people interacting with phones instead of each other, then he removed the mobile devices from the pictures.
Strangers Together In Isolation
The third smartphone addiction often observed is probable-strangers in close proximity in public places who are all absorbed in whatever is happening on their phone rather than what is happening around them.
Some people in public spaces are using their smartphones to deal with an immediate need, such as finding a restaurant, figuring out how to get to their destination, or answering an urgent personal or work text or email. Other people around them are absorbed in their phone because they’re bored — watching videos or checking Facebook is an easy and mindless way to pass time. Of even more dubious value is public use of smartphones to avoid interaction with others or to avoid looking like you don’t have a life.
Based on Pokémon Go social interaction I’ve read about in the past week, it feels like there’s a whole (augmented) world of possibilities for developing games and other applications that create more obvious social interaction in at least one of the above three addiction categories. I won’t try to predict what any of those AR applications or technologies might look like, but I know they’re coming, and I look forward to seeing them in action!
Are You A PokéPlayer?
Are you riding this technological and sociological wave? Want to experience this world-changing event for yourself?
Pokémon Go Events post update, 15 Jul 2016:
“Thousands of people in Sacramento have hit the streets looking for Pokémon. Rick Mears wanted to share the Pokémon Go experience with his friends, so he created an event on Facebook…But that event quickly became a big hit on social media. “It was almost a thousand people an hour,” Mears said. “It just kept growing and growing.”
When more than 6,000 people expressed interest in the event, Mears pumped the brakes.
“I was worried [about] disturbing the peace,” Mears said. “I checked with the county and there are some specific ordinance for events like these.” If a special event meets the definition, like if anticipated attendance will be greater than 200, then the organizer must submit a special events permit application, according to the City of Sacramento. That application must be submitted at least 60 days before the event…”
This is another case of modern laws struggling to deal with the connected world of today’s internet users. Rick was a law-abiding guy who didn’t want to get in trouble. In other cities, there are guaranteed to be PokéCrowds and Pokévents with thousands of people. And it would not be surprising if Sacramento still has a crowd of over 200 people show up at the time and place Rick Mears originally scheduled.
“…The Facebook event for a San Francisco Pokémon Go crawl on Wednesday has 3,600 people confirmed in attendance, with another 18K “interested” in the event. “I had no idea that this event would reach such a large scope of people. I made this event at midnight, invited my facebook friends, and fell asleep,” the the organizer of the Facebook event, Sara Witsch, tells me. “I woke up to 500 people going. Within 24 hours, it reached 2k going and 11k interested. I only expected maybe a few hundred at most, if anyone at all…”
When I checked the FB site on July 15, the participant numbers had climbed to 6100 confirmed for the pub crawl and 25,000 interested. By July 20, the date of the event, there could be 10,000 to 50,000 people who show up to catch wild Pokémon or to just watch PokéPlayers…