Saturday November 10th was a dreary winters day in the city of Nijmegen. Certainly not the best day to spend hours outside. However, in a small side street leading from the riverfront up to the city center a strange collection of people were gathered. Among them pre-teen children accompanied by a parent, a group of about a dozen teenage boys, several smaller groups of older teenagers and young adults, interspersed by older adults and senior citizens. All gathering to and playing together with the aim of battling and catching the legendary Pokémon Giratina. So why is it that Pokemon go still attracts so many players from all ages? And should your family join in?
From its launch in 2016 Pokémon Go has grown from a hype to a far more extensive augmented reality game that has a steady player base with a wide age range. Initially, the game evolved largely around the gathering of items and catching of virtual creatures by moving around in the real world. This allowed for player interaction, as friends and family members would walk through their neighborhoods together, and unknown other players would encounter each other in parks and other interesting places that were hotspots for both Pokémon and the items needed to catch them. Strangers would spontaneously talk to each other to find out where a rare Pokémon could be found. And even our GEMH lab members went out to get in on the fun.
Two and a half years on the game has expanded and allows for far more interaction among players. Players can become friends in the game and play together to reach a higher friendship level. The more players play together, the more rewards this yields and the cheaper friends can trade Pokémon. Players can also join up to beat strong Pokémon known as raid bosses and can since last week also show their skills in one-on-one battles with other players.
While there is a much larger variety of actions, quests and storylines Pokémon Go is still easy to pick up and interacting with the game never gets much harder that tapping and swiping on the screen. This ease of play is likely one of the major reasons of its broad appeal. However, the social elements currently are the biggest draw for players, as Pokémon Go reported a 35% increase in active users after launching the friendship feature with over 113 million players becoming Pokémon friends.
Moreover, recent research suggests that playing video games together has a larger effect on relationship closeness than spending the same amount of time just talking (Pecchioni and Osmanovic, 2018). So why not use Pokémon Go to connect to your (grand)child, cousin, niece or nephew? Explore what draws them into this game or explore together if neither one of you has played it yet. It is a great excuse to brave the cold and have a long walk together and you may even find yourself a Pikachu with a festive hat!
Want to be a little more prepared? Watch this fun video of dads playing Pokemon Go with their children for the first time:
Pecchioni, L.L., and Osmanovic, S. (Year). "Play It Again, Grandma: Effect of Intergenerational Video Gaming on Family Closeness": Springer International Publishing), 518-531.