Pokemon Go: Gamification in Action

Pokemon Go: Gamification in Action

If perchance you have been living under a rock, Pokemon Go is a mobile application available for Android and iOS which provides a real world GPS driven map on the screen, and when the user moves, their avatar moves in the same direction and speed as them. During this, little creatures known as Pokemon appear on the screen, allowing you to capture them using special little devices called Pokeballs. Once caught, you can train them, evolve them (using candy…) and take over gyms (battle arenas) with them.

I know, I know, it’s all very geeky and nerdy, however – for almost everyone, Pokemon is a phenomenon. It’s overtaken other popular apps like Twitter and Tinder in active users and since the launch of the app, it has added a further £5.6 billion (that’s right, billion, with a B) onto Nintendo’s share price!

So what has got the nation Pokemon mad, and why is it a good thing for society – including businesses? Let me explain.

Pokemon Go uses a technique called Gamification

Pokemon Go uses a technique called Gamification (I hate the word, but I didn’t choose it) Effectively, what Gamification means is taking a process that is otherwise considered dull or tedious, changing some of the parameters of the task in order to make it more fun and ultimately ensuring the user arrives at the same end point.

In business this means staff are more enthused to do those tasks that otherwise they try to avoid. An example of this is would be an app we created for the University of Central Lancashire. The application took the module that had been voted the most boring by staff and students (Criminology) and presented it in a comic book fashion with choices based on real criminology theories. Basically delivering the course material in a more ‘interesting and fun’ way. This app is still used today by the course.


Now back to Pokemon Go. PokeStops are little landmarks in the game that give you items when visited. These are based on real landmarks (blue plaques, historical buildings, famous buildings etc.) Coincidentally, some of these PokeStops are at or very near existing businesses. If this is the case for you, SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY! I was reading someone complain on Facebook the other day that his place of business – a café – was next door to a PokeStop and people kept appearing and standing outside. I almost choked on my coffee! Here was a business owner complaining about potential customers just turning up outside!

How could they have taken advantage of this? The game takes a lot of battery use, put some chargers on a few extensions and allow people to charge their phones in your business. Sell water, sell Pokemon merchandise, put down Lures (ingame items that make Pokemon spawn faster) so you attract an even bigger crowd. On my local park I put down a lure and within 5 minutes I had 8 people approach and ask if they could sit there and use it.

If your business is lucky enough to be a gym or next to one, well enjoy your free money.

The game has also got some significant health benefits too. Everyone wants to keep fit, everyone wishes their physique was a little tighter and everyone wants to be healthy. What people don’t like doing, is exercising. Come on, it’s boring! You put on your running shoes, get on the treadmill or leave your front door, put in your headphones and start to run. Plod, plod, plod, plod, plod…. You get my point. It’s boring, tedious and all I really think about when running is, when can I stop?

Pokemon Go removes that element. You may not be running, although you can, but you’re on what is effectively a treasure hunt. There is Pokemon out there to go catch! Your team lost its gym, so you have to go take it back! Your egg has another 4km left on it to hatch (eggs hatch based on distance walked) so you get your coat on and go for a wander, because you get rewarded at the end of it. Whilst writing this post, I ventured out twice, once because there was a rare Pokemon not so far away (I missed it…) and another because I decided that I wanted to hatch two of my eggs and they had 3km left on them.

Would I have gotten up for a walk otherwise? Probably not, exercise is generally a chore. I do my fair share, I swim often and I’m an occasional visitor of the actual real gym, no Pokemon involved. However I do find it tedious and it leaves less time to do what I actually enjoy, like not exercising.

I’ve personally seen this in action in other people too. My friend is a rather large gentleman – easily approaching the 25 stone mark. What has he done since he downloaded Pokemon Go? Walked. A lot. He walks to work which is 2 miles away, whereas he’d drive normally. We went on a 5 mile walk into Lytham to catch some cool Pokemon. He’s loving it, he knows its exercise, he’s fully aware that this game is making him exercise, and he’s okay with that!

Whilst on the aforementioned walk with my friend, we encountered numerous people who were all playing Pokemon Go, and most if not all stopped to chat, offer tips where they spotted a nice Pokemon, helped us in taking over gyms and pointing us in the direction of PokeStops – total strangers talking, getting enthused and excited about this game. It was surreal. I’ve been a gamer for most of my life and I had never seen stuff like this before.

That is the power of Gamification done well. It will inspire people to do tasks they find otherwise boring, tedious or not worth their time. It has got people to exercise, willingly. It has allowed people to meet and experience something together. It has allowed businesses to capitalise on free marketing and more importantly, it has introduced Gamification to the business world.

Gamification is the future people. Utilise it.