Walking down the street of a neighborhood they haven’t visited before, an aspiring Pokemon GO trainer looks at the displayed city map on the Pokemon GO app, where they see a Pokemon is zero steps away. Eventually, a Spearow appears on their screen, that uses the phone’s camera to simulate the Pokemon in reality. Waiting until the green circle gets smaller around the Spearow, the trainer flicks their finger across the screen, throwing a Pokeball to capture the Pokemon. The trainer now has a Spearow to use in battles at Gyms around their city.
This was an example of a situation that users of the Pokemon GO app, which was released in early July 2016 on Android and iOS phones and mobile devices. The app has proven to be immensely popular, and had over fifty thousand downloads in the first twenty-four hours of release. Many of those players have positive memories involving Pokemon.
Jacob from Boise, Idaho explained what drew him to download Pokemon GO. “So like most people my age, Pokemon was a huge part of my childhood,” Jacob said, “from the cards, movies, shows, and games. So when I heard they were releasing an interactive app that combines the real spirit of what Pokemon is, I had to have it.”
Virginia from Seattle, Washington enjoys the excitement of seeing Pokemon in a familiar environment. “I play it because I like the idea of catching my favorite Pokemon in the real world, so to speak.”
Krystal, another resident from Boise, Idaho said that “I play Pokemon GO due to childhood nostalgia. Pokemon was the thing to play growing up, whether it was on the original Gameboy to the card game. Pokemon GO is another fun way to create more fun memories within the series.”
Erika, of Las Vegas, Nevada also states how Pokemon GO hearkens back to her childhood. “I play it because it fulfills much of my childhood desire of traveling across the land, searching far and wide for Pokemon,” said Erika, “it combines some of the best childhood gaming nostalgia with a current need to actually get up and work my body a bit.”
Eric, also from Boise, Idaho told why he plays Pokemon GO. “I play Pokemon GO because it gets me out of my house and into the real world,” Eric stated, “it is a PERFECT combination of nature and technology.”
Social media is full of screenshots and photos of Pokemon GO players outside in their neighborhoods, city parks and hiking trails looking for new Pokemon to capture. One of the dynamics of the game is that different environments are programmed to contain different kinds of Pokemon that correlate to that area. Thus, fish Pokemon can be found near water and bat-like Pokemon have been reported near a graveyard at night. (No reports on ghost-types, though.)
As previously stated, the Pokemon GO app has encouraged its thousands of users to get off the couch and go exploring outdoors. Krystal of Boise revealed that she also plays Pokemon GO because it “gives me an excuse to workout. Catching unusual Pokemon usually requires a lot of legwork.”
With so many people using the Pokemon GO app, it has led to a lot of exciting social interactions between friends or even fellow trainers who have never met each other before. Jacob from Boise recalls when after only having been out for a day, that “there have been so many friends that have also been playing. I was downtown last night, and my friend and I were just walking around, looking for Pokemon. It was amazing how many people were out doing the same thing. To me, it’s already breaking barriers that games have never done before.”
Eric from Boise states that “pretty much any time I run into total strangers…we bond over something we both love. This may prove to be a great way of expanding my social circles.”
Erika from Las Vegas, described meeting a couple of random strangers in her area also looking for Pokemon and “getting to just chat about what we were finding, any tips we had found for the game play etc. It was a neat little bit of socialization that surprisingly wasn’t awkward at all, it kind of reminded me of meeting people in a con environment where no one felt the need to be embarrassed in public about being an adult and searching out Pokémon.”
A memory that sticks out for Krystal from Boise is when “my friends and I were attending Ladies Night over at The Village at Meridian, and there were a ton of people playing Pokemon GO at once. I even caught a Rapidash.”
Already, there are walking groups, meetups and even dates being organized among friends or other Pokemon GO app users across social media. Some of the gathering places are locations such as Pokestops and Gyms. The Pokestops are situated at different landmarks in cities, and trainers that visit them are granted helpful items or even eggs that will hatch into Pokemon after a certain amount of time and walking. Trainers also have the option of buying Poke Dollars through micro-transactions to purchase in-game items. Businesses themselves like stores and restaurants located near Pokestops and Gyms have also reported online an uptick in revenue.
At the Gyms, trainers that have reached Level 5 can battle a Pokemon placed there to defend its “prestige” by a member of Red, Blue or Yellow Team that the app users can join. The gyms are also in real places around cities, and can be taken over by a rival team.
While the Pokemon GO app has been immensely popular and successful, there have been some issues that many app users feel need to be fixed. A major cause of irritation for trainers are the servers that keep crashing, preventing them from either logging in or closing down the app right before a Pokemon is caught. Jacob from Boise stated that “the server issue is making it really difficult to play consistently, but I’m sure that’ll be fixed within the next week or two.”
Krystal from Boise described a situation with the servers where “I was forced to close out of my game, and re-log back in several different times. It was the worst because the people that I was currently hanging out with didn’t have these issues.” Erika from Las Vegas voiced her frustration with the servers, by stating that “they go down every 30 minutes or so for a couple hours at a time…it’s not like the developers didn’t know there would be a huge amount of traffic to have to deal with, and they still clearly didn’t prepare very well.”
Virginia from Seattle would like it if the developers made it run smoother on iOS.
There are also Pokemon GO game play changes that have been suggested from the users. Jacob from Boise hopes “they add battles between other players…I also hope they continue to improve the interface and the overall smoothness of the app.” Erika from Las Vegas proposed that even though there are already battles at gyms, “I do wish there was the ability to use your caught Pokémon to battle wild ones, or even allow random encounter battles when you meet another trainer–one so you could train your Pokémon beyond just using items, and to encourage trainer interaction.”
Finally, users of Windows phones and mobile devices have voiced their frustration of being left out of being able to download and participate in Pokemon GO. There are a couple of petitions floating around the Internet that they hope will change the app developer’s minds.
Pokemon GO still remains to be an incredibly popular and engaging app that encourages exploration and socialization.