What makes Pokémon Go?
Directions & Destinations, 1 September 2016
Dr Tama Leaver, Curtin University
Department of Internet Studies
Centre for Culture and Technology
Curtin Institute for Computation
Artist: Pawel Kuczynski
1. What is Pokémon Go (and why does it matter)?
2. Augmenting Reality & (Re)Configuring Space
3. Pokémon Go Perth?
I. What is Pokémon Go (and why does it matter)?
What are Pokémon?
• Created in 1995.
• Originally a Gameboy video game (96).
• Narrative about Pokémon trainers who
collect ‘pocket monsters’ (Pokémon),
who then train them and enter Pokémon
• The basic narrative and range of
Pokémon now spans games, trading
cards, television series, films, comic
books, and other forms including the
Pokémon Go mobile game.
Who are Niantic?
• Software-development company focused on
locative media and augmented reality.
• Originally formed within Google, but spun off as an
independent company in 2015.
• In 2012 launched the locative-based Ingress game
which added of augmented media to the material
• Partnered with Nintendo and the Pokémon
Company to create Pokémon Go, launched in July
Pokémon Go Basics
• Users play as a Pokémon trainer
• Utilise pokeballs and other tools to
• Pokémon spawn (appear) in the ‘real’
• Pokestops provide extra pokeballs
and other tools.
• Teams (Instinct, Mystic, Valor)
• PokeGyms allow teams to battle and
conquer their local gym.
• Westboro Baptist Church
• Infamous for promoting religious
• The physical Westboro Church is a
• Gym defended by a Clefairy
pokémon named ‘LoveIsLove’!
• Church ‘fought back’ on social
media with their own pokémon
decrying “the sodomite Clefairy”
Pokémon Go is a Death
Sentence if you are a Black Man
(Re)Configuring Spaces …
• Augmented reality games combine both digital
and physical spaces and experiences.
• Augmented layers can reconfigure and add to
meaning to physical locations.
• Digital layers can change, challenge and
confront normal spatial practices
• However, playing in the material world means
augmented layers are constrained by the
material, cultural and social norms already
existing in those spaces
Perth & W.A. …
• Pokewalk shows physicality and sociality of
• Reconfiguring spaces both highlights and
• Battle for King’s Park is as much about class and
access as about memorials and meaning.
• Rural WA continues to miss out in the online and
1. Augmented reality demonstrates that physical and
digital are always already enmeshed, not
2. Augmented layers both challenge and reveal the
normative operations of existing spaces.
3. Pokémon Go is the ‘killer app’ for augmented
reality, ushering in many more games and other
apps utilising this technology to (re)configure
Questions or Comments?