Catching Pokémon: Will the Cultural Phenom Survive?


It became an inescapable reality: hordes of people of all ages grouped together in public spaces, their noses to their phones.

Their goal? Trying to find Pokémon and catch them all. Pokémon Go, which was released in July 2016, quickly became a global phenomenon; at one point, it had as many users as Twitter. Its meteoric rise was due in part to nostalgia. Adults, who had experienced Pokémon in the ’90s, could now play the augmented reality game and experience the thrill of seeing childhood characters superimposed onto the real world.

People were also drawn to the game’s instant community. Crowds of people could meet at various spots to catch Pokémon, leading to social interactions that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. Parents of autistic children suggested the game helped their children interact with others, and health professionals were enthused about its ability to get people walking outside.

But serious issues associated with the game – including its misuse in public locations like cemeteries and memorials, and injuries to users playing the game – have caused concerns. In fact, many of these have already been addressed by the developers; Pokémon Go Plus, a wearable accessory, now permits people to play without looking at their phones.

However, many Pokémon Go-watchers say its current single-player focus, which appears to be the antithesis of the sense of community that makes it so popular, will have to be changed in order for the game to survive into the future. Will it survive? Only time, and perhaps your favorite Pokémon character, will tell.