20th Dec. 2017
Just participating in the hype of the global launch of Pokemon GO July 2016 was a shared cultural experience that created a sense of belonging in connection to both people and place (Vella et al. 2017). There has been a similar rush of interest in the phenomenon by researchers, over the past year several thousand research publications have been written from various perspectives (Google Scholar: search phrase “Pokemon GO”). For a mapping study (References in the end) on literature this is a fertile ground for transdisciplinary synthesis on the topic.
The context of game-play, the city streets, is an integral part of pervasive gameplay. How the game-play is entwined with daily life is an equally important characteristic of these games (Montola et al. 2009; Paavilainen et al. 2017; Liu et al. 2017). Daily life cannot be observed in a controlled lab environment (unless one lives in a lab), which creates a challenge for observing the blending of daily life and game-space.
On our sample we extended the collection of photos to Nordic countries, to get some geographic distinction to the data set (now comprised of ). We conducted a mapping study on literature to Pokemon GO related papers and are confident that no one has yet published similar study on the imagery posted on social media and how it makes the blending of daily-life and the game perceivable as it happens. For this study we embrace hybrid reality logic (de Souza e Silva 2009), which states that pervasive games combine different realities such as social media and the city streets. We take for granted that “a hybrid information ground” contains both the physical and the online communities where the flow of information reaches. Following this logic, we focus our inspection where the blending can literally be seen, the (AR) snapshots the players publish in online communities.
Initial Analysis (Oslo-Oulu)
Based on initial observations from image material from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from Oslo and Oulu the context of gameplay does not vary between the AR snapshots an regular photos, outdoor and indoor locations are equally presented. What is notable that many play the game at home, where the gameplay is not as intense perhaps but not outdoors, although the game is perceived to be an outdoors game. There are slightly less AR images in the gathered material. Most of the images (58%) are screenshots from the game user interface, either images of pokemon inventory or snapshots of rare pokemon. Other prominent types of photos depict crowds playing Pokemon GO or images from hatching eggs (pokemon eggs require a 2-10km walk to hatch). A typical comment for an image depicting outdoors scenery is: “On a Sunday walk through the rain and 100% raikoun.” or “Spotted this while pokehunting.” Urban nature is well presented in the outdoor locations for gameplay, but built city streets are equally important environment for gameplay.
Both AR snapshots and normal photos posted show equally the blending of dailylife (daily activities) and gameplay. In both photos and AR snapshots there are plenty of images in category “Arts and Crafts” depicting fan-art and cakes. There is however one form of novel art, AR fan-art, where the AR pokemon are situated in their physical environment with care, the images are edited for better composition and later submitted to the social media sites with a prominent watermark.
What is notable on the AR imagery specifically, is how the social media posts of photos depict the two-way influence between the physical world and the virtual. People pose alongside the pokemon and appear to hold them or take snapshots of the pokemon sitting on the edge of their wine glass… or a toilet seat. The distinction between private and public does not seem to exist when posting an image of a rare pokemon (Although, this the kind of initial impression that might change with further analysis). The blending effect from physical to virtual can be observed in images where physical world objects are perceived as pokemon. One person from Pokemon GO Oslo Facebook group submitted a photo from an office-meeting commenting a projected graph: “Has anyone else seen Pokemon in real life objects. This is Jumpluff”. Some players craft intricate Pokemon sculptures from Hama-beads or playdough. Fanart of such popular game can be expected (Manifold 2009), but these sculptures are then placed on a street-walk and a photo is submitted to social media as if it was an AR view from the game.
Conclusions and Future Work
AR images and photographs from gameplay can function as probes to blending of magic circle (Huizinga 1955) of gameplay and daily life, these images can even give us a peak to the two way blending of digital and physical realities.
It will be interesting to compare the findings (once we conduct a more thorough qualitative analysis with the full dataset) to the frequencies in other/normal social media image posts (Hu et al. 2014). Pokemon GO players post scenic images and screenshots, but seldom there are selfies amongst the photos. We would also like to accompany this study with a survey where we probe what is the self-perceived significance of the AR images to the Pokemon GO players from social media groups, to see if the additional data will reveal hidden meanings that do not come across from the photos and the accompanying brief commentary. Perhaps the true value of the AR feature in Pokemon GO is in the formation of the social online communities.
Paper draft, under work!
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