Pokemon Go as Routine

Curator's Note

The initial wave of coverage of Pokemon Go followed a pattern familiar to emerging technology. Stories about dead bodies, intricate criminal plots, invasions of privacy and political turf wars grabbed headlines but they often obscure the long-term realities of the mobile game. Pokemon Go is a casual game with more in common with Bejeweled than with the virtual reality of the Star Trek Holodeck. While some players will continue to make special trips to live within the augmented reality the game offers, the longevity of the game depends on players integrating it into their everyday routines. Like other casual games, Pokemon Go thrives because it can be played in our in-between moments or simultaneously with existing behaviors such as exercising, walking or commuting. Pokemon Go is a part of an entertainment and economic ecosystem that I call the procrastination economy. Its gameplay and design are predicated on consistent use within the flow of everyday routines. A regular jog through the neighborhood with Pokemon Go enabled on a mobile device can collect the items and points necessary for developing characters and remaining competitive in the game. Niantic (and Nintendo) make this reality plain in their advertising for the game.

In the commercial  “Get Up and Go!” the game players are often using the game in their everyday routines. Pokemon Go features in exercise, traveling to work, and taking a walk. The suggestion is that the game will enhance these activities through gamification and rewarding this routine behavior with points and character development. Additionally, the game promises to make these solitary routines more communal by connecting players with one another through battles and that shared recognition that the person staring at their phone collecting resources at a random location is also like you. In this way, Pokemon Go defines augmented reality more in relation to everyday life than as an escape from it.


I do wonder about the proportion of Pokémon Go play that happens during daylight hours versus at night, which would speak to how exactly the game fits into our everyday routines (and interestingly is another way of considering the rural/urban divide... I've heard everything from "rare spawns at night" to Niantic nerfing evening spawn rates to discourage "unsafe" activity, but have no idea what's true). After the intense flurry of the first few months after release, my Pokémon playing is now less predictable and more opportunistic, and definitely confined to the daytime.

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