In the hands of a parent, Pokemon Go is one of the most powerful educational tools to hit the world since the iPad, but this times it’s free (assuming you’ve already got a phone). Really? Yes really…read on McDuff.
I’m in and I’m hooked already! I started playing properly this afternoon, I’ve captured 5 Pokemon with the help of the kids (who were so much better at it than me) and I am now set for the summer holidays. This is the summer where the girls and I go hunting Pokemon, and I can’t wait, because the side effect of hunting Pokemon is that you have the most extraordinary opportunity to engage with your local culture and history if you choose to accept it.
Pokemon Go is the latest gaming phenomena and this time it’s played on your phone in the real world. Once you’ve signed up you create an Avatar and then you’re off. The first screen to appear is a map, based on google maps, with your Avatar on it and Pokestops. You walk in the real world towards the Pokestops and when you arrive there may be a Pokemon there. If there is then you can attempt to capture it. In ‘capture mode’, which is my made up name for it, your camera takes over so you see your actual surroundings and the Pokemon is superimposed in them. You then have to throw the Pokemon ball to capture the Pokemon. Once you’ve got enough Pokemon for a team you can battle your friends etc. I haven’t got that far yet. I don’t know if I will to be honest. We’re more than happy just capturing Pokemon. We are aged 3, 6 and 40!
The Pokestops are points of interest from Google Maps. Today we went to the children’s library and then to the museum next door BECAUSE IT CONTAINED POKEMON. Whilst there, we went to the Lewis Caroll exhibition which has all sorts of children’s activities. It was excellent. We wouldn’t have gone in had it not been for the Pokemon. I spoke to one of the museum staff and she told me they’ve had a real increase in footfall with Pokemon hunters. Some just look for Pokemon and go but some didn’t even know there was a museum, found it because they were looking for Pokemon and stayed to look at the exhibits. They left with a Pokemon and the knowledge that a Woolly Mammoth was found under M&S (before they built it of course). Stories of a town’s history help people to feel more connected to their town and community. What a brilliant side effect from something that could so easily be dismissed as silly.
Through my work with Kingston Museum and telling the story of King Athelstan I’ve come to know quite alot about the town and it’s history, and yet today, during 2 hours of Pokemon hunting, I learned even more. I learned that the statue at the end of my road is that of a Pirate. I didn’t know! It’s on the other side of the road and I’ve never been over to look at it. He’s not significant enough to ever make it onto a trail in the town, especially when he has to compete against the likes of King Athelstan, Edward Muybridge and Woolly Mammoths, but now that it’s been pointed out to me he’s a little bit more special. I’ll notice him when I next walk past. I’ve made another connection to my town.
I’ve also discovered that there is an incredible Mural above a shop called Natterjacks in Kingston that I’ve never seen because I’ve never looked up! I haven’t even been Pokemon hunting down that street yet – I was just exploring the app. It’s something special about my town that I didn’t know before – another connection is made.
There are of course the usual sods out there whose brains are wired wrong and see this as an opportunity to exploit their fellow man. There are stories of people being lured to Pokestops and robbed. Admittedly when you read these stories the victims weren’t being streetwise. There was one girl who took the game to it’s extreme, went hunting in the middle of nowhere for Pokestops and found a dead body. There is a map – it shows the Pokestops – follow the map and you’ll be safe. Use your head and you’ll be safe.
There are inevitably going to be headlines about this game but it’s worth pushing on because the capacity for community connection is huge. For me it was getting more in touch with my local history and culture. For some it’s been discovering that there even is some local history and culture. There are now ads appearing in listings in US newspapers where gamers have met at Pokespots and lost their hearts but not swapped numbers so they’re appealing for their love interest to make contact so that they might go out on a date!
Humans are interacting because of this game. People are out walking the streets, getting exercise, meeting up, talking, learning about their surroundings, their culture, their local history, all because of this game.
The girls and I will be going Pokemon hunting at least once a week. I’ll do my research first to make sure that we go to places where the girls will learn something new about this town we live in and start to make connections of their own. We’ll go to Pokespots and read the plaques that tell us the stories of our town because currently that information isn’t in the game, but it so easily could be. Local councils should take note. Anybody who does any sort of historical trail should take note. If you can get your community information into that game then you have a powerful tool indeed.
For more information on Pokemon Go check out their website www.pokemon.com/uk/
They have a parents guide which can be found by clicking here.
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SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure. She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right. Infact 80% of the kids who come through STORY STORKS are right where they should be or ahead in terms of progression through the reading book scheme once they get to school and the ones who are behind are trying hard because they know that it’s worth it – that to read is to unlock a whole world of fun and adventure and learning and imagination and they might take a bit longer to get there but they’re determined that get there they will.