As someone who worked from 1999 – 2012 in a theatre that included a robust arts education program and an Equity Theatre for Young Audiences, I can say that I have witnessed a lot of Pokémon obsession. Then the obsession waned. I admit, I was a little happy. But today Pokémon is back to entertain many and torture some. Pokémon GO has exploded over the last month (fun fact: It started as an April Fools joke in 2014 at Google. Niantic spun off to become an independent company).
As an augmented reality game, Pokémon GO is noted as actually getting generation Z out of their houses using the geo-location feature on their digital devices to play the game. The game is also heralded as the first “nostalgia” product for millenials. It seems to be almost everywhere. Just today I have en 5 Pokémon GO articles, 2 of which address the arts.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC asked Pokémon GO to please remove the museum as a pokéstop. Yet other organizations are taking advantage of traveling packs of Pokémon hunters. According to an article in Nonprofit Quarterly, several museums are highlighting their pokéstops in their social media and a Food Bank is mobilizing volunteers by offering by linking to a pokégym location to a volunteer recruitment incentive. In Sydney, Australia, a Facebook event was created to walk “together through the Royal Botanic Gardens and around the exterior of the Opera House. This event attracted over one thousand people under the hashtag #PokeGoWalk.” Yet it was not coordinated by the Botanic Gardens.
This makes one wonder what opportunities exist for intersecting Pokémon GO with arts and cultural institutions and how to ensure these opportunities will actually engage the visitors with the content of the arts and cultural institution. Bringing them in means nothing if it is ancillary to the mission.