Pokemania in the air

Urška Purg

It’s here and apparently it’s not going anywhere – Pokemon GO game, which flooded the world in a matter of days. It has managed to infiltrate into every place, even the cultural institutions, whether they like it or not. It has its pluses and minuses, among which not all are already known and are still emerging.

On its march, it did not forget to involve also the museums and galleries in any kind of manner – whether they host some newly self-employed little monsters or they offer PokeStop stations, where the players can refill for the hunt, or even call the wild Pokemons.

With the exception of a few museums and places of memory, like Auschwitz Memorial and Holocaust Museum Washington, majority of worldly known museums, such as MoMA, V&A, Museum of London, etc, accepted this special scavenger hunt game and the players with open arms. Even Slovene museums and galleries reacted to the new trend immediately; mostly by embracing the game and letting the potential audience know, they’re in it as well. They tried to tackle along, each in their own way.

There have already been a few articles, advising the museums, how to make the most out of it, even by investing in the game, boosting Pokemons, offering special Pokemon tours, etc. What is the least of the benefit museums could get out of this? By being a PokeStop, they at least attract the players, of broad age groups, although, surprisingly, the ones hanging out around the museums in Slovenia tend to be deep in their twenties. It does not necessarily mean those Pokémon seekers will ultimately enter the museums; however, they at least take a stop in front (in the worst-case scenario) and remember the name and the place. In Slovene case, that is already alot. Through this, maybe they will geolocate the museums in their mind maps, and just maybe, they will even return with a purpose of visiting one day. Although the last is a very idealistic scenario. To summarize, museums can suddenly get a large number of game enthusiasts in their yards, and it is up to their inventiveness, how they will react to that. How far should museums go with it, should be intertwined with their mission and vision.

Returning to the inappropriateness of the PokeStop though, what can museums do there? How can they influence the players and Niantic, to pull them out of this enchanted overlapping virtual-real world? Since the majority of the stops, glued on top of Niantic previous location game Ingress, tends to take place on the existing open air monuments, statues and cultural heritage spots, some of them might be inappropriate, in a way Auschwitz is. In Slovenia, players will suddenly get very familiar with all sorts of monuments, especially the ones from the period of WWII and post-WWII monuments and memorial boards, including the monument to victims of the WWII, which is supposed to be a place of respect, memory and peace. One can ask the holders of the game – Niantic – to remove the location, however at this point and with such a rush, the reply includes only a promise of taking the request in to a consideration as soon as they will manage.

Since this is by far the last such game, museums and other institutions will need to prepare themselves, in order to react properly to the world they will need to leave and fit in. Additionally, I can say from my own experience – being a total non-gamer – the game just sucks you in. If you don’t believe me, just try it out yourself. Moreover, it makes me wonder, what else the future will bring.

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Pokemon trainers in front of National Museum of Contemporary History Slovenia. / Trenerji Pokemonov pred Muzejem novejše zgodovine Slovenije (foto: Monika Montanič).

 

 

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