So, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks (and perhaps not even then) you will be more than aware of the phenomenon that has swept the globe, crashing servers left and right as droves of millennials desperately try to catch them all.
Yes, I’m talking about Pokemon Go.
It is the most successful mobile game in US history and in a few short weeks has become more popular that Twitter. Within a week of release it had more than 25 million daily users in the States alone.
If you aren’t one of the 75 million people (and counting) who have already downloaded the app, it is perhaps a little baffling why so many people (78% of whom are unsurprisingly aged 18 – 34) are walking around staring at their phones, throwing imaginary balls at fictional creatures. Well, let me try to explain.
As a child I played Pokemon Red on my Gameboy (shared with my brother who I will now grudgingly admit was better at battles than I was), I collected, traded and played with Pokemon cards (desperately looking for that glittery Charizard), I watched the Pokemon TV show and even paid to see the movie. Squirtle, Pikachu and Eevee were very much a part of my day to day for a substantial amount of time. And later, at Uni, when I bought a Nintendo DS, the second game I got for it (after Tetris, obviously) was Pokemon Platinum.
It was the game of my generation. I made friends when I started secondary school because of card trades I made, and fell out with my Dad when he turned off my Gameboy before I’d had a chance to get to a Pokecenter and save the game. I know that sounds childish, but in my defence I’d been playing for over an hour, levelling up my Pokemon and lost everything. In my Dad’s defence we were on holiday in Italy at the time.
My point is, that obviously, when they released a game that integrated a fictional world I spent a substantial amount of my childhood in with the real world using augmented reality, of course I jumped at the chance to play it. And, honestly it’s become a huge part of my life in an almost embarrassingly short amount of time. I have even walked into work several times last week in an attempt to catch more Pokemon (with great success, alongside my new Wartortle I’ve also caught a healthy collection of blisters).
What I hadn’t been expecting was how many of my friends, who had never played Pokemon before in their lives, have taken to it. Admittedly, I get some very confused WhatsApp messages from them
But there is an overall acceptance of it, provided you are of a certain age. Even if some of my friends are more begrudging of my new addiction than others.
According to a recent article in Forbes, more than 63% of the US Pokemon Go community is female. While the CEO of Niantic Labs (Pokemon Go’s creators) might be “surprised if that were true”. I’m really not. There is a preconception that gaming is a predominantly male arena, especially video games (although that seems to stretch to board games, LARPing and other RPGs). Could it not just be that men in this sphere of interest are simply more vocal than women with the same interests?
Pokemon is not an ultra masculine aggressive game. Yes, there are battles, but the worst case scenario is that you watch a cartoon creature faint. A lot of Pokemon are cute (although notably not all of them) and the ultimate aim is to “catch ‘em all”. At it’s heart it’s an exploring and collecting game. The sort of game that can appeal to anyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or any other box (or Pokeball) people would like to put us into.