Pokémon Go: A new converged communications phenomenon

Pokemon Go

The July 2016 Pokémon Go craze. It’s #concomms gone wild. (Image Credit: Eduardo Woo/Flickr)

If you’ve been out and about lately, you’ve likely definitely heard about (and probably seen people using) Pokémon Go. And if you haven’t been out and about lately, that might be because you’re playing Pokémon Go yourself. In the coming months and years, gigabytes of information will be churned out about this cultural phenomenon, which has swept across the planet with breakneck speed in the past week. It’s a dizzying illustration of the cultural impact of converged communications – or, as we call it, #concomms.This post isn’t designed to discuss the details of how Pokémon Go works. Instead, here’s a look at perspectives from all around the World Wide Web, examining how Pokémon Go is interacting with daily life and what is making it the hyper-fad of the summer of 2016 – what’s good, what’s bad, what’s weird, and what’s next.

  • Why did this little app suddenly become a worldwide craze? To answer that, it helps to look at the psychology of Pokémon Go. Lisa Eadicicco of Time does exactly that in this post, discussing the nostalgia factor and its persuasive impact on users. Some experts believe that the emotional impact of reconnecting with favorite characters and past experiences is more important for users – many of whom were Pokémon fans during the franchise’s heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as the New York Times‘ Quentin Hardy reports – than the intrinsic merits of the game itself.
  • Can Pokémon Go succeed where so many others have failed by actually changing people’s fitness habits? It’s a possibility. By motivating users to traverse land and sea in the never-ending Pokémon quest, the app is indirectly stimulating a surge in physical activity. As Adario Strange reports for Mashable, users of the Jawbone UP fitness tracker reported a 62.5% increase in the amount of steps they’ve taken since downloading Pokémon Go. (#Concomms students who have studied this topic will likely see the concept at work here: gamification.) And that’s spawned new opportunities in the fitness and technology fields. Case in point: pokefitness.com, a website developed this week by a South Carolina police officer and designed to help Pokémon Go users integrate the app with their fitness routine.
  • Fact: Squirtle, Pikachu and friends aren’t really real. (Yes, it’s a fact.) But, another fact: Other animals are. In some cases, Pokémon Go users looking for animals in Category 1 have actually found the ones in Category 2, giving them an up-close-and-personal look at wildlife. Sean Greene of the Los Angeles Times gives an interesting report of the intersection of virtual and actual biology.
  • Needless to say, Pokémon Go also exerts its influence on family life. While it may seem that phone apps would tend to have a fragmenting effect, sending people off on their own individual expeditions and diminishing face-to-face contact, this isn’t necessarily the case. As John Keilman of the Chicago Tribune reports, some families are using the app as a way to explore new places together and enjoy outdoor settings while on their search. Still, there are concerns; excessive use of any technology can become addictive. And there are also concerns about safety (see next point).
  • There’s a time and a place for Pokémon Go, and behind the wheel of a motor vehicle isn’t it. As it turns out, numerous people have suffered the consequences of less-than-advisable usage of the app, with results ranging from falls and car wrecks to (as reported by the Los Angeles Times) tumbling down a 90-foot cliff. Eli Panken of NBC News discusses how police departments are urging citizens to use caution – and a fair dose of common sense – when in Pokémon pursuit.
  • Then, of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a quick look at the wild and wacky side of what happens when the Pokémon Go universe becomes our own.

Fremont County, Wyoming: Pokemon Go leads teen to dead body (Jose Pagliery, CNN Money)

O’Fallon, Missouri: Pokémon Go: armed robbers use mobile game to lure players into trap (Alan Yuhas, The Guardian)

Auburn, New York: Pokemon Go crash: CNY driver hits tree while playing game (Samantha House, Syracuse Post-Standard)

Denver: Denver International Airport is overrun with Pokemon (Mallory Davis, KUSA)

Forest Grove, Oregon: Forest Grove police log: Pokémon Go player stabbed, keeps playing (Samantha Swindler, oregonlive.com)

Los Angeles: Hundreds of ‘Pokemon Go’ fans flock to Santa Monica Pier to catch a Pikachu (Veronica Rocha, Los Angeles Times)

Toledo, Ohio: Pair of Pokemon Go players arrested at Toledo Zoo (Jon Victor & Alexandra Mester, Toledo Blade)

Plus, the New York City Transit Authority has actually had to tell people not to jump onto the tracks to chase Pokémon. Actual Tweet below:

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