Sunday, July 17, 2016

There Are Pidgeottos At The Library: Pokemon GO and Outreach

So last week a new online game designed as a smartphone App - Pokemon GO - came out, and pretty much dominated the news and gaming fervor since then. It's outpacing social media apps and turning into a kaiju-sized monster. Busy week...

Based on the popular Pokemon trading/training/battle game, Pokemon GO is an update of the original game from the early 1990s. This time, the game's draw is that it can be played in a real-world environs. GO overlaps onto existing map locations (called "augmented reality") and places the cartoon battle animals - currently the original 150 creatures - into these locations for people to "catch" them for powering up, evolving, and fighting other players' Pokemon.

Meanwhile, real-world public areas - parks, churches, malls, libraries - are set up to serve as either PokeStops - places for players to resupply themselves with needed gear - or Gyms - places for players to battle their Pokemon to control that Gym as a Trainer.

This means that people playing the game HAVE to go to these real-world locales to do what they do to level up and win.

And I mentioned libraries.
POKESTOP

The library where I work is a PokeStop: that is, we can be a place for players to recharge (there are two Gyms nearby). PokeStops can also have Lures running in half-hour intervals that summon Pokemon into range for capture, which means every so often players - kids, teens AND adults (those who played in the 1990s with nostalgia and whimsy) - will gather at our library primarily to restock and reload.




This all came as a sudden shock: although news about GO had been out for a year or more, nobody really understood the real-world applications of this game until it got the huge response from millions of players suddenly swarming about in places that didn't realize they were PokeStops/Gyms.

The question is, how can libraries benefit from this real-world development?

There's a couple of resources librarians can read up on to gain understanding of Pokemon GO, and also get tips on how to market/outreach to the kids/adults/families coming in to snare themselves a PsyDuck. School Library Journal has a link, ALA has a blog page on their Library Services to Children site, and the Public Library Association is diving into the mania while the going's good.

The best suggestions are to advertise locally - and early and often - that the library is a game location. I've been doing that with City of Bartow Library's Facebook page, and am looking to create a few more online tags for people to hear the news. Creating signs and banners is an easy step to take. One idea would be to host events: As a PokeStop, I can plan ahead and announce a Lure running on a specific day and time to draw in those who'll want to benefit from an increase in Pokemon to capture (a test run showed me the Lure draws in about TRIPLE the amount of Pokemon, sweet).

A wonderful suggestion by a library group promoting GO: using a 3D printer if you got one (WE DO) and creating Pokemon badges (WE COULD) that kids can pick up if they show that they're on the game and winning certain things. Along with the badge we'd give them a library bookmark promoting our hours and library events.

One other thing libraries have to do: Remind people playing the game to stay safe. There is a risk to playing GO because of the requirement to play in the real world. It involves walking outdoors, near major traffic areas sometimes or in public parks with dangers involving remote spots or late-night activities. There are a lot of serious safety concerns. We've got to make sure people in our libraries - in our communities - stay safe as best as possible.

Meanwhile, the biggest problem: Keeping up with Pokeballs. It's gonna take a lot of balls to play Pokemon GO.


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