Pokemon Go craze a surprise, takes world by storm

Quite possibly the most unexpected summer phenomen, the Pokemon Go app has pushed people outside to hunt oddly shaped virtual pocket monsters, called Pokemon. Based on a 90s video game created by Nintendo, the game morphed into cards in the early 2000s and last week ripped through social media as an app, surpassing even Twitter in daily users.

According to Fortune magazine, Nintendo’s market value even increased by $17 billion in just over a week, causing changes in company strategy and marketing. With such popularity, even stock in cell phone batteries is zooming, as the lively game tends to drain battery power quickly.

It’s combination of Pokemon characters in real life locations has created one of the first large-scale augmented reality opportunities, pitting players against one another in fun, friendly games. It’s been hailed as a wonderful way to encourage fitness and get people meeting up with other like-minded Pokemon enthusiasts.

The downside is because the phone uses smartphone GPS and Google Maps to project images of Pokemon onto player’s cell phone screens, people are looking for Pokemon in difficult, and often unsafe locations. Players have been known to wander onto private property, accidentally step off cliffs and even look for Pokemon while driving – all pretty dangerous ideas.

With even businesses hopping on the bandwagon to make themselves more attractive to players, by becoming a “Poke-Stop” where players and the virtual monsters can rest and refuel, the game has rapidly become a pop culture icon and reference. Let’s stay tuned as media educators to see what’s sort of pop culture tool it will become.

For more information about the mechanics of Pokemon, and one writer’s introduction into playing the game, read this piece from the New York Times. For some suggestions and health tips about how to play Pokemon while staying safe, read this article from our very own Public Health – Seattle & King County blog.