If you’re a human, you may have heard of the recent Pokémon Go phenomenon. And you may think that it’s just for kids, it’s not to be taken seriously, and that you shouldn’t encourage your workforce to play it. And – as a twenty-year-strong Pokémon sceptic – I’ll be honest and say I used to agree with you. However, during some conversations at the weekend, I found myself unintentionally, yet fiercely defending ‘GO’ against its critics. So, I looked into it, played it, and here are some things I learned today:
- Within one day of its release (in the US), over 5% of all Android users had downloaded Pokémon Go. To put that into context, it had more users within a day than Tinder has in total.
- 40% of adult users of Pokémon Go are over 25.
- 11% of Android users in the US now have ‘PoGO’ installed. (That’s not its official abbreviation, but I’m trying it out to see if it catches on.)
- The success of Pokémon as a game-based franchise is second only to the ‘Mario’ franchise.
- The name ‘Pokémon’ is a Romanized contraction of the Japanese ‘Poketto Monsuta,’ or ‘Pocket Monsters’.
- Definitely do not use it on a work phone. Or on work WiFi. Or when your boss can see you.
- It’s easy to see the appeal of the game to all ages.
- There’s a lake around the corner from my house which I knew nothing about. Now my feet are wet.
- The Benefex office is not a Pokéstop.
- To get an “é”, you hold down ‘Alt’ and type ‘1, 3, 0’.
That’s all very interesting, but is it relevant to company culture and/or employee engagement?
1. Health and wellbeing
Pictured: Trimmin' fat with Venonat
The whole point of Pokémon Go is to get people outside and moving around. It is, in essence, a treasure hunt. There have been reports of kids walking 23k in a week, who otherwise may have been inside, not exercising. In terms of the workplace, you already know that a physically active member of staff is more likely to be engaged, motivated, and take fewer sick days. The benefits of getting outside and stretching our legs during our breaks is important not only physically, but mentally. Our Engagement Director, Simon Andrew, has done some research into neuropsychology and how it affects our performance at work.
2. Social benefits
Pictured: Bein' cool with Tentacruel
Pokémon came out in 1996. My peers and I were 8 or 9, and for billions of Generation Y-ers, it was kind of a big deal. Twenty years on, we’re occupying a huge chunk of the workforce, and PoGO provides some wonderful nostalgia for a lot of us. If you’re not a fan, you may scoff and roll your eyes, but that could alienate a lot more of your employees than you’d think. The possibilities of creating and developing social relationships across a business are endless. An office environment doesn’t necessarily lend itself to bring out the best in an employee – particularly an introvert – so who knows how many future couples or best friends may have recently met, purely via PoGO socialising? There are Pokéstops (centres where you can claim ammo etc.) throughout the country – in gyms, bars, and restaurants – which are encouraging players to enter new environments, experience new things, and meet people along the way. They’re bringing the benefits of those experiences to work with them, and your workplace is the better for it.
3. It matters to your future workforce
Pictured: Wit' my crew and Pikachu
Whether you think it should or not, this game will matter to up-and-coming Generation Z-ers. This is the most popular game ever, and you can’t afford to ignore it! This generation are AR (augmented reality – Pokémon GO is an example of this) and VR (virtual reality) natives. Obviously, we all go through that rite of passage where we lecture younger humans on how they’re not as good at being children as we were (I got the eye-rolls from my parents, they probably got it from theirs), but in reality, the whole “respect your elders” attitude should go both ways. Gethin Nadin, Director of Ecosystems at Benefex, has done some great research into those young ‘uns born in this century, and how to engage with them.
4. This technology will open doors for your business
Pictured: Futuristic with Team Mystic
Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, so, we may as well embrace it. Whether you like it or not, human communication is becoming more and more digital (although we have already seen how digital communication can easily convert into face-to-face interaction). The augmented reality of Pokémon GO has laid a foundation upon which more of our everyday technology will flourish. Ok, it’s likely that my 66-year-old dad won’t be interested in Pokémon GO, but who’s to say that in years to come there won’t be a Trivial Pursue, or a Chelsea Flower Go, or a Texas Jigsaw Mass Occur? If you’re in a largely desk-based role, perhaps this kind of technology will develop into easier remote working, and an AR platform could allow for more creative interaction with your workforce.
5. We were all on our phones anyway
Pictured: Helpin' elders catch a Shellder
One of the criticisms of PoGO (I’m determined to get this trending) is that people are not paying attention to their surroundings, which is obviously dangerous. The main critics are those same people who, over the last ten years or so, have consistently moaned about “young people and their mobile phones.” So we know that being distracted by a phone is nothing new. We were doing it anyway. Obviously the people who walk in front of cars and fall off cliffs (seriously – two people in San Diego are injured) are probably idiots, like people who text while driving. These are the exceptions. Playing Pokémon GO should not interfere with a responsible person’s actual working time any more than Facebook does. Research has shown that employees who occasionally check in on social media etc. are actually more engaged! However, if you have an employee who’s persistently more interested in playing while they’re supposed to be working, you may have a wider engagement issue.
6. It allows for some harmless escapism
Pictured: Mystic Myrtle clocks a Squirtle
After Brexit, terrorist attacks, and military coups, we all need a bit of time to just step out of the real world and take our minds off things. Just as taking a physical break will increase productivity, taking a break from, well, the world, will work in much the same way. Some people choose to watch football for an afternoon; some people flock to see Beyoncé, and some people chase fictional characters around an augmented reality. Who’s to judge if any of these are ‘less than’ the others? The individual, that’s who. *Mic drop*
7. It’s helping businesses reach a new audience
Pictured: Gettin' buff with Jigglypuff
*Picks up mic again because I wasn’t finished*
How does it help businesses? See point 2, except from the alternative view. I.e. new potential customers and increased employee engagement because customer service staff are busy and meeting new people. All of which generally makes people happy. Why not take a look at these wonderful capitalists who are cashing in on the game?
8. It’s given us some excellent Buzzfeed listicles
As with every social phenomenon, the internet giveth:
What happens when you play Pokémon Go on Downing Street?
Which Pokémon is your Zodiac sign? (I’m a Venomoth – thoughtful and diplomatic – just sayin’.)
How to play Pokémon GO. Remember our super-serious and clever Director of Ecosystems? Yeah, he also did this.
Chardonnay GO! A mum gets it right.
Pokémon has its own dating app.
There you have it. Now, go and catch 'em all. Or some of them. You probably won't catch them all.