‘Stealth Social’ Makes Pokémon Go

The Wall Street Journal: “It’s important to understand why Pokémon Go is such a hit, because … it might be a harbinger of new types of mobile and social apps, which put the ‘social’ back in ‘social network’ … The stealth social element is that Pokémon Go, while not explicitly about bringing people together, is doing so anyway as people playing it meet and share tips in their hunt for virtual monsters that the game shows in real-life neighborhoods.”

“Those real-life encounters are, paradoxically, a consequence of the lack of social features in Pokémon Go … (It) has no chat function, no map showing the location of other players—in short, no way to connect with others aside from meeting them in person. Nor does Pokémon Go require players to interact—it’s entirely possible to play the game without having any contact with anyone. Even the one naturally social element of the game—battling against others’ Pokémon—can take place on a player’s own schedule, with no one else present.”

“Many game designers have derided the design of Pokémon Go, calling it simplistic and trite. But it’s apparent from the game’s success that, intentionally or not, its simplicity accounts for much of its success.”


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