Pokepolisci

pokemon-1543353_960_720I’d love to be able to tell you about how you can teach political science using nothing more than Pokemon Go. I’d love it, because it would give some semblance of meaning to the past fortnight, the hours spent hunting down Pokemon and wondering whether I’ll even catch a Jynx.

Sadly, I’m not able to. Not yet.

For those who’ve been living under a rock of late, Pokemon Go is the latest incarnation of the long-running series of games from the Nintendo stable, wherein one attempts to catch a variety of monsters – the eponymous Pokemon.

I write this with the casual knowledge of someone who three weeks ago had never playing any version of Pokemon, ever and who has since been on a steep learning curve.

The difference this time appears to be that a) I’m looking for a distraction and b) Pokemon Go uses GPS to map gameplay onto the real world, requiring you to physically move around to capture Pokemon, gain resources and fight other players.

While geocaching has been a thing for a long time, this game brings it much closer into the mainstream. Most obviously it also ties in with mHealth/eHealth agendas, as evidenced by my kids recent enthusiasm for hunting for Pokemon (“going for a walk”, as we used to call it). But can we get anything more PoliSci out of it?

I’m not sure if we can.

In essence, the gameplay is largely individual and invites you to balance travel, building resources and fighting to achieve higher levels. Interaction with others is limited right now, bar fighting for and holding Gyms, but even this is essentially transactional, so one would struggle to derive lessons about cooperative/conflictual behaviour from it.

However, if you did want to try and get something out of it then you could certainly talk about the game. This piece is a starting point for considering the values embedded in games, which is something we’ve also talked about a lot with our simulations.

Of course, by the time you next have a class, this autumn, Pokemon Go might be a thing of the past. In which case I might have more chance of holding a Gym.

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