Pokemon Go fever is back! In July of 2016, the mobile smartphone app Pokemon Go launched for download in the United States. Since the launch of the smartphone game, it has attracted millions of players, making it one of the most popular mobile apps. The initial popularity of Pokemon Go took a decline in recent months - but with the game's biggest update yet, players are expected to come back out.
For those of you who don’t know, Pokemon go is an “augmented reality” mobile phone app. The player’s location is tracked with an avatar on their phone screen, and fictional Pokemon characters are superimposed all around them. Players are required to get active to explore their surroundings in order to catch Pokemon characters, battle other users, and collect items to be used in the game at “Pokestops”, which are usually well-known landmarks in many of our parks.
The Pokemon Go update includes the long-awaited release of 80 beloved Pokemon characters to be caught. The release of the new characters into the game has garnered a lot of excitement. Players who previously captured all of the available Pokemon, (or have gotten bored with the game) now have extra incentive to get out and catch the next batch.
As the wellness blog discussed in August, Pokemon Go has some great health benefits. The whole premise of the game is based around the idea of getting outside and exploring in order to obtain in-game items, capture new Pokemon, and interact with other users in Pokemon training gyms. Additionally, the game requires players to walk certain distances to hatch Pokemon from eggs and to gain rewards to make their current Pokemon stronger.
Pokemon Go has recently added more features to encourage players to get active. A few months ago, a wearable device called Pokemon Go Plus was released. Pokemon Go Plus connects to the user’s smartphone and keeps track of steps. It also vibrates when a Pokemon character is nearby. Additionally, Pokemon Go has added support to the Apple Watch. It allows users to track their workout while playing Pokemon Go.
The Pokemon Go update has major implications for recreation and park departments. If your local facilities have experienced a decline in Pokemon Go player traffic, you can expect to see more players out in the coming weeks. After the update, Pokemon Go climbed back to the top on the Apple App Store’s highest grossing applications. I went out to play the weekend of the update and saw big numbers of players out.
There are a few easy tactics that your department can use to encourage players to responsibly play Pokemon Go in your facilities. First, use social media to post messages encouraging the public to come out to play Pokemon Go in your parks. Make sure to emphasize that new Pokemon species have been discovered in your park.
Additionally, use Pokemon Go themed signage to communicate any specific rules to players in your park. Place the Pokemon Go logo on flyers to garner the attention of Pokemon Go players. Then, post any rules your department has regarding Pokemon go on the flyers. Place these flyers around “Pokestops” and “Pokemon Gyms” to ensure they are in spots where players frequent. Rules such as staying on marked trails, park hours, and no playing Pokemon Go while driving could be included.
In September 2016, myself and NCRPA Fellow Nicole Miller presented on Pokemon Go at the NCRPA Wellness webinar. The webinar gave an overview of Pokemon Go, explored the health benefits of the game, and detailed additional ways to make the most out of the application in your department. To view a recording of the webinar, click this link.
I hope that this blog post has given you some additional information regarding the Pokemon Go update. In regards to Pokemon Go and other augmented reality games, it is important for recreation and park departments to stay aware of the current trends. It is my opinion that these games are going to be increasingly popular in the future, and will help get people active in our parks. An increased awareness of these trends will help your department maximize the benefits brought to the public.
Until next time,