Playful Mobilities in the Global South

Souza e Silva, A., Glover-Rijkse, R., Njathi, A., & De Cunto Bueno, D. (2023) Playful Mobilities in the Global South: A study of Pokémon Go play in Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi. New Media & Society, 25(5) 963-979. DOI: 10.1177/14614448211016400.

Abstract: Pokémon Go is the most popular location-based game worldwide. As a location-based game, Pokémon Go’s gameplay is connected to networked urban mobility. However, urban mobility differs significantly around the world. Large metropoles in South America and Africa, for example, experience ingrained social, cultural, and economic inequalities. With this in mind, we interviewed Pokémon Go players in two Global South cities, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Nairobi (Kenya), to understand how players navigate urban spaces not only based on gameplay but with broader concerns for safety. Our findings reveal that players negotiate their urban mobilities based on perceptions of risk and safety, choosing how to move around and avoiding areas known for violence and theft. These findings are relevant for understanding the social and political aspects of networked urban spaces as well as for investigating games as venues through which we can understand ordinary life, racial, gender, and socioeconomic inequalities.