Can you catch ‘em all?
In case you live under a rock, have recently returned from a trip to space, or have never logged on to the internet, let us introduce you to the viral sensation that is Pokémon Go.
Pokémon, the Nintendo-owned franchise that began as a video game for the original Gameboy in the mid-’90s, and went on to achieve mainstream relevance as a television show and card game, has just made a massive comeback with the mobile game that’s taking over smartphones everywhere, Pokémon Go.
As the game’s official site describes, players are able to “travel between the real world and the virtual world of Pokémon with Pokémon GO for iPhone and Android devices.” The augmented reality game works by placing Pokémon characters in real locations like New York City, Japan, and Paris to “encourage players to search far and wide in the real world to discover Pokémon.”
The game emboldens users to get out, walk around, and interact with other players in real life while on the hunt for these tiny creatures. Once a participant spots a Pokémon, he or she must then throw a “poké ball” at it, hitting it just so to capture it, train it, and use it for future battles. To help find Pokémon characters, users can also use tools like incense to lure characters out to the player’s location.
Sure, getting people off their couches an interacting in real life sounds great, and at its core it is—but even within the few days since the game launched, the gaming community has faced intense Poké backlash.
Over the weekend, criminals waited at the game’s “Poké stops,” then robbed several victims. The game also led a player to discover a dead body. Some of the game’s less than ideal Pokémon placements, such as in the 9/11 memorial and the Holocaust Museum, have also received scrutiny. But it’s not all bad news for Poké lovers—as Fusion notes, the game is actively bringing people together, from all genders, races, and religions.
One Reddit user even shared this rather incredible late night encounter:
So what is it about this game that has inspired millions of people to pick up their phones, download the app, and use up their data plans roaming the streets like we’re in the middle of a Poké-apocolypse?
“Unlike most video games, playing Pokémon Go is a very public, observable thing,” Jonah Berger, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, told GOOD. “People aren’t sitting in front of their TVs, they’re out in the world. People often imitate what others are doing, so the easier it is to see that other people like something, the faster it catches on. Built to show, built to grow.”
It isn’t hard to imagine hoards of people like this one spotted in Central Park inspiring others to want to see what all the fuss is about.
“If a number of our friends are already doing something, we don’t want to be left out, so we jump on the bandwagon,” Berger adds. And it’s very likely everyone in your clique is already playing. As CNet reports, the game already has more users than Tinder and added a cool $7.5 billion to Nintendo’s market value over the weekend. Even if all your friends aren’t playing the game just yet, they are at the very least Googling it. ComicBook.com points out that search queries for “Pokémon” are nearly twice the rate they were in 2011 and 2013—the last time Pokémon games were released on Nintendo 3DS.
So how long will we be living in this Pokémon-induced haze? Like all things, Berger explains, this game simply needs to run its “coolness” course. “Once something becomes popular, liking it no longer signals being cool,” he says, adding that “early adopters often abandon it and move on to something else.”
When it comes down to it, as GOOD’s resident Millennial Benison Choi explains, Pokémon Go has “two great things that already exist: GPS and the true love of Pokémon.”