Pokémon Go

map pinPokémon Go has been sweeping the world. More people are now using this app on their smartphones than even some social media apps. It has become a phenomenon to many, and some would argue just another fad.  Here in Los Angeles where our lives are to a large extent influenced and dictated by what is trending, if you are not playing, well then, WHO are YOU?

To state the obvious, yes there has been controversy of people wandering into bad neighborhoods, trespassing on private property, car accidents, and hackers trying to isolate and mug people. I am not going to talk about this, aside from saying that if you are (for lack of a better word) stupid, you are going to be stupid whether you play Pokémon Go or not. Try not to think that all of us are idiots just because a few of us are- the majority of people who play the game do so in a safe and law abiding way.

We now return from the infomercial to the main program of the day- how is this game, IMG_0411CHANGING ‘the game’? TO understand what I mean, one needs a basic understanding of the concept of the game. Click here to watch a trailer about it if you do not already know, then come back and finish reading my blog post! I will start by saying that I know get excited to go to the grocery store, because I might be able to catch a Pokémon. I have rediscovered long forgotten murals, fountains, neon signs, and stores because they are Poké Stops. Here is an important one, I find myself happy to revisit places that I only go to once every few years, such as a museum or park, because I might find a rare Pokémon there.

As a child of the 90s, I had a passing interest in Pokémon like everyone else my age. When fiancée who was a die-hard fan told me about the impending release of the app, I was mildly interested. He was hoked in the first five hours, so I download it to see what the hype was about. I fell in love with the concept of the app. It makes you get up and leave your house. Unlike any other game, it cannot be played in the dark on your couch with a bag of chips. If forces you to leave, go places, and walk.

As a result, places that have not been popular for ages have been flooded with traffic because a Lapras was sighted. People are getting out into the sun and going places. One thing I have noticed, is that everyone has been a bit more pleasant as well- we all actually have something in common again. We are playing the same game, finding the same things, and laughing about the same stuff. Groups of friends are huddled together, and smile at each other when they pass others on their way to the next Poké Stop in a park. We are having fun doing something simple, nonviolent, free, and innocent- when was the last time this could all be said? With all of the horrible things that have been happening in the world lately, the world needs something nice right now.

pokestopSo what is the benefit of this game to museums? Why, PEOPLE of course! People are flocking to museums and their gardens in hopes of catching Pokémon. I caught several when I was in the Alternative Dreams exhibition at the LACMA.  Since I was at the LACMA to attend and review exhibitions I did not play as much as I wanted to so that I could undividedly pay attention in a critical way. I saw so many people playing, and taking fun screen shots with a Ekans balancing on the edge of a painting, or a Cubone sitting next to a sculpture. It is true, visitors are not necessarily learning a lot about the objects on display, but they are seeing them in a different way, again and again. This is a long held rant of mine, that it is perfectly acceptable for visitors to see museums from different angles, and to have alternative experiences that deviate from our standard set agenda. Let’s roll with it, and take advantage of it. If restaurants and bars are putting out signs saying, “The Poké Stop is here, so come in and have a beer!”, who are we to argue with a successful business idea?

I have seen several museums in LA that I follow on Instagram and Snapchat, posting these fun screenshots of Pokémon hiding in their exhibitions on their social media. This new game has started what I hope becomes a new trend of interactive apps that in the future can be continually used to encourage people to get out of their bubble and visit somewhere new such as a museum or gallery. Maybe this concept can even be used by museums on iPads to encourage visitors to hunt for something in galleries. I usually talk a lot about lowering your camera or phone and seeing things with your own eyes, and not just through a screen or viewfinder. In this case, the composition that is formed through the screen on your smartphone is a composition that shows something that is digitally (GPS coordinates and all there, but unseen. It’s a ‘world within a world’, and an idea such as this has tremendous potential for museums to have fun (God forbid) and create something or take advantage of something new for visitors.

What do you guys think? Have YOU caught anything fun in your local museums lately? Are you going to go try it out? Let me know how it goes! Thanks for reading.


Peace and long life.

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