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Gotta catch 'em all

by Angus Trumble, 28 July 2016

Lately we attempted to jump on board the current global social gaming tsunami that is Pokémon GO, mainly to take advantage of the last three days of the school holidays. Gill and Alana dropped “lures” at two Pokestops in and around the Gallery. This (for those of you who have absolutely no idea of what I am talking about) means that people playing the game can come to us and wait for Pokémon to appear, rather than chasing them all over Canberra. In terms of numbers, we had no idea if we would get one or two lonely souls, or a whole pack of Pokémon GO obsessives hell-bent on snaffling their umpteenth Pikachu. Would I approve? Further, would I tweet? Of course. This is one of the reasons I adore my staff. They have their collective finger on the pulse, even if occasionally, as in this instance, I have, at first, absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

Since then, a number of interesting things have happened. A lively discussion among American museum professionals arose on LinkedIn, in which it was seriously proposed by some to ban Pokémon GO from certain public places in which it might or could be regarded as inappropriate, for example the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. I am not quite sure what I think of this proposal, except that even if one agreed with the general principle I suspect any such ban would be doomed to failure.

A friendly visitor, meanwhile, told me quite candidly that last weekend her teenage son and a couple of his school friends got her to pick them up from outside the National Portrait Gallery where they had spent some hours chasing after things that have to do with Pokémon GO. She told me her son couldn’t believe his mates had never been inside, so he made sure that they crossed our threshold for the first time. All good news, and very interesting: in this case a recent technological fad, in combination with the right sort of teenage peer pressure, captured at least two new Canberra visitors, in a demographic, moreover, that we find is otherwise very difficult to engage.

I have since had independent confirmation that over the weekend the Parliamentary Triangle was indeed awash with Pokémon GO fanatics and trolls chasing after their Pikachus, Mewtwos, Bulbsaurs, Charmanders and Squirtles, and so forth. There were hundreds of people outside Questacon last Tuesday afternoon, busy with their Pokémon GO. And an old friend of mine, a federal regulator of dentists, texted me with feeling: Why, oh, why did I introduce him to Pokémon GO? The answer, of course, is that I didn’t – other than merely by mentioning it in a tweet on Friday evening, having been urged to do so by our digi-team. I was happy to oblige, but not for a moment did I think that any of my direct contemporaries would join the craze. It has turned into a social movement all over the world. At first it doubled Nintendo’s share price, before causing it to plunge once the company announced that the impact of their interest in Pokémon GO would be limited. I see that an accredited journalist was caught Pokémon GO-ing in The White House briefing room, but complained of poor reception.

We live in fascinating times.