Why the world should care about Pokémon GO

If you’ve been any on social media sites, you’ve seen it. Pokémon is everywhere.

Actually, you’ve probably seen it even if you’ve stayed offline. People pausing in the middle of sidewalks, phones out, interacting with well, and apparently empty space.

Welcome to Pokémon Go.


What it is
Pokémon Go is a free game for for Android and iOs. It’s part of the Nintendo franchise of trading card and video game fame. Only instead of playing in an entirely virtual world, Pokémon Go uses the phone’s camera, clock and location data to make it look like Pokémon are part of the world around you.

Players, who call themselves trainers, travel to different Poke stops, where they catch Pokémon, and gyms, where trainers battle their Pokémon and connect with one another. It’s a pretty appealing combo: The Kansas City Star called it “part bird-watching, part geocaching, part trophy hunting, with a heavy dose of mid-’90s nostalgia.”

Why it matters
The game itself may sound a little silly if you never succumbed to the allure of Pokémon in your childhood, but you’re actually looking at the future. Even the venerable Wall Street Journal agrees on that point.

Pokémon Go is the first game to create mass appeal using augmented reality, which overlays the offline world with interactive virtual elements. It’s similar to virtual reality, which creates an immersive experience. Between computers getting more powerful and the increasing adoption of wearable devices, we’re likely to see more and more augmented and virtual games. (Extra Nerdy Extra Credit: The Scientific American reports that, technically, this isn’t quite augmented reality, but it’s close enough for most of us.)

The game also shows how online and offline worlds can work together. Trainers have been gathering to play, and lots of the coverage talks about the social interactions they’re having. People are even planning Pokémon Go CrawlsSmall businessesare taking advantage of the foot traffic to attract new customers. The game maker says sponsored locations are coming soon.

Warnings, Warnings, Warnings
There have been plenty of dire warnings about Pokémon Go making the headlines, too. They fall into two categories: data privacy and physical safety.

The data privacy concerns have been addressed, mostly, but original versions of the game gave the developer full access to ALL of a player’s Google account-- search history, private documents, location data, contacts, you name it. Niantic Labs quickly released a fix and said it was unintentional.   (And if you haven’t installed the update, go get it now.  We’ll wait.)


As for the physical safety? Well…the problem with combining the real world and a virtual one is that things can get messy. There have been car crashesrobberies, and an assortment of sore legs and sprained ankles.  KCPD has you covered on how to stay safe. 

Where we’re playing
Businesses and organizations all around Kansas City are getting in on the fun. Pokemon have been seen at Kauffman StadiumKansas City Public Library and various local businesses. Johnson County Community College is organizing campus tours, and the Roastarie was inspired to make a new drink by a Pokestop nearby.

Now go have fun and catch ‘em all. And tweet us your pictures when you do!

About the author:
Tara Saylor is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.