Pokémon Go as an HRG

de Souza e Silva, A. (2016). Pokémon Go as an HRG: Mobility, sociability, and surveillance in hybrid spaces. Mobile Media and Communication, 5 (1), 20-23. DOI:10.1177/2050157916676232.

Abstract: In July 2016, Niantic Labs released the hybrid/augmented reality game Pokémon Go. Due to the game’s sudden enormous success, many mobile phone users all over the world could experience for the first time playing a hybrid reality game. Hybrid reality games, however, are not new. For at least 15 years, researchers and artists experiment with the affordances of location-based mobile technology to create playful experiences that take place across physical and digital (i.e., hybrid) spaces. Blast Theory’s Can You See Me Now?, developed in 2001, is one of the first examples. Yet for a long time, these games remained in the domain of art and research, and had therefore a very limited player community. Previous research has identified three design characteristics of hybrid reality games: mobility, sociability, and spatiality; and three main aspects to analyze these games: the connection between play and ordinary life, the relevance of the play community, and surveillance. With hybrid reality games’ commercialization and popularity, some of the issues that have been at the core of these games for over a decade will remain the same, while other aspects will change. This paper uses Pokémon Go as an example of a hybrid/augmented reality game to explore the main social and spatial issues that arise when these games become mainstream, including mobility, sociability, spatiality, and surveillance.