Just like the flame from the tail of the Charizard, Pokémon GO is lighting up Humboldt County like a wildfire. Released in July of this year, the game played on mobile devices is still finding new eager players at Humboldt State University. It might even be great for student retention, advisors say.
Observations of Pokémon Go cutting across boundaries caught the eye of HSU academic advisors. Kristina Hunt, an HSU academic advisor for the college of Natural Resources, finds the connectivity of Pokémon Go to be one of the most beneficial things about the application.
“One of the most important things for students to be successful in college, and have that longevity in college and not dropping out— it’s to feel really involved, and to have peers that have similar interests,” Hunt said. “It’s been an activity for them to do; not only were they getting exercise playing the game, they were being brought together.”
The uninitiated might wonder: What the heck is Pokémon GO? This game (for mobile devices) is a continuation of the Pokémon franchise, a 20-year-old Japanese game series in which players use capsules, known as Poké balls, to capture various types of creatures. Pokémon first rose to be a pop-culture norm in the late 1990s as a trading card game, then aired as a TV show before appearing as a video game.
Pokemon GO is an application that follows parts of the Pokémon game series formula; this includes battling, capturing Pokémon, and filling out an encyclopedia known as the Pokedex that logs in every creature with their basic information. The distinct characteristic of the game is that it places players in real life to catch Pokémon using augmented reality, a form of virtual reality that projects the game out into the physical world. In this instance, it’s through the use of our smartphone’s camera and GPS system. The virtual world of social-gaming has been rocked by this phenomenon, which according to Education Week, tallies over 21 million daily mobile users.
According to Education Week, James Gee, an expert in educational video gaming at Arizona State University, sees Pokémon Go’s success as part of the way “it enchants the environment.” Gee considers the role of Pokémon Go in a country that is fractured due to a variety of social and economic reasons. He asserts that the game’s popularity cuts across class and race to connect students to each other.
Tristyn Berman, a zoology major and athlete, finds Pokémon Go to be another way to meet people in her community, and highlights how it helps her academically.
“Pokémon Go has allowed me to meet new people who I never talked to before,” said Berman.”It’s helped me connect with my classmates, and form study groups at Poké Stops around my house.”
Hunt also touched on how Pokémon Go creates opportunities for students to meet new people, as well designate spots to study. These locations are referred to as “Poké Stops” in the games. They reward the player with prizes, and are sporadically placed throughout Humboldt County.
“If you go to some of the Poké Stops, you’ll find other people who’re doing the same thing as you,” Hunt said. “I think that it’s really important because it makes you feel networked into your community in a bunch of ways. And for students who’re maybe feeling distance from that, it provided a really unique opportunity for them to create connections with people.”
“That’s the positive of applications like this,” said Kyle Leitzke, an academic advisor at HSU for undeclared students. “It connects students in ways you wouldn’t expect before.”
Although he agrees with the positives of Pokémon Go being due the connection among students, Leitzke considers students who might struggle with organization wouldn’t benefit.
“There are students that come in and describe how they struggle with time management due to the use of their phones. I would assume Pokémon GO would have a certain role,” Leitzke said. “It would come down to the students ability to manage and organize their time. A new app like Pokémon GO could have a spike in being involved, but after the novelty, it would wear down.”
Helen Molina, a film major and photographer from HSU, finds that Pokémon Go, and other similar phone applications take time out of the day by looking at a screen instead of socializing.
“I have tried to limit myself due to school,” Molina said. “But when I’m out and about, instead of paying attention to my friends, I tend to spend more time on my phone.”
Instead of helping with connectivity, Molina touched on how Pokémon Go could distance a person from the people around them. “It takes you out of your everyday life and you’re not able to spend as much time with friends and family,” said Molina.
Hunt understands that criticism.
“With that being said, any type of game in that industry can be really distracting,” Hunt said. “Pokémon Go, compared to a lot of these other apps, might have strengthened some of the students ability to thrive up here.”