When non-gamers think of a stereotypical gamer, the image of a fat, spotty recluse with very few real friends may come to mind. Nintendo have been trying to break that stereotype for many years now, but none of its products have done a better job than Pokémon Go.
Not only has Go gotten gamers to head outside and feel the sunlight on their skin, but it’s also built a new community. Nintendo have been working on creating a tight-knit group for its games ever since they released Miis for the Nintendo Wii. These were designed to give a digital representation of players on the console to allow them to interact with friends on another sofa. While the Wii’s internet system and matchmaking weren’t quite up to scratch, Nintendo laid the basis of their community-centred approach all the way back in 2006.
Pokémon Go creates a real sense of community in several ways. While non-gamers may argue that people are now walking around, staring at their phones more than ever, players of the game are constantly interacting with each other – not just in the game, but in real life. It’s difficult not to. Often, Pokémon Gyms are situated at churches and shops; bumping into the person you just destroyed to take control of their gym is sure to start a bragging contest. At Pokéstops, lures can be set to attract rare Pokémon in abundance – which also brings more players to the area. Meeting others playing the game is not an awkward, online interaction anymore, but a genuine interest in what level the other player is, what their strongest Pokémon is, and whether they have they caught anything rare yet?
Of course, within any community there is bound to be some competition. Nintendo have taken control of this by creating the three teams: Valor, Mystic and Instinct, which battle for control of local gyms. Meeting a rival player at a gym you control, or fighting their Pokémon while they frantically call for backup is a jovial, but tense moment.
While Nintendo and Niantic have provided a basis for a community in Pokémon Go, there is still more to be done to bring it into the game itself. Player versus player battles, trading, and text chat are just some of the ideas floating around to bring players closer together. Nintendo could also add in community events; Facebook is already swimming with meet-ups in London and other major cities around the world, but official meetings are sure to bring a larger crowd.
It’s pretty amazing what Pokémon Go has done for people in the short time that it’s been out. It’s brought people together. It’s made people healthier. It’s brought in a new era of mobile gaming. Some people may dismiss Go as another fad that will soon die out, but, especially as the servers get better, it’s going to be around for a long time.