You’d have to be a Diglet - under a rock, that is - to have completely missed what the whole world is currently consumed by. A franchise that started as a game on Nintendo’s Game Boy and as a TV series in the mid-1990s, the latest entry in the Pokémon franchise has caught on even more aggressively than the cards did in primary school. Pokémon Go, a game app released last week on mobile platforms, has shot to the top of the app charts, is flooding Facebook, and become everyone’s new obsession. You don’t have to go far to hear the familiar theme music piping out of someone’s phone on the street or see groups of people of all ages out at night walking around trying to nab themselves some Pokémon.
Why the hype?
If you’re yet to be convinced, Pokémon Go brings the twenty year old franchise into 2016. The app hooks into your phone’s location and clock data to serve up players with Pokémon as if they were in the real world. Players walk around and the phone’s camera allows the app to represent Pokémon as if they’re part of your everyday world. An Abra sitting on a public toilet, a Magickarp flopping around on a jetty. Just like if Pokémon were real.
That’s why everyone is so giddy for it. For anyone who’s had any interaction with the Pokémon games or TV show, there’s a moment when you ask yourself “What if this was real?”
The fantasy, of living in a world where animals are actually cool little characters that you can collect and battle and make friends with, that’s the magic Pokémon Go seeks to capture.
And it seems to be working.
Games for everyone
That a mobile game could so aggressively snatch the attention of the world isn’t surprising. We’ve seen it time and again with mobile games, from Candy Crush Saga to Flappy Bird. We’re familiar with these moments of community, moments when it seems everyone you know is chasing some digital success in one game or another. And in that respect Pokémon Go is no different.
As it turns out, these games employ a bunch of techniques that humans are just programmed to love. They can’t help but be entertaining. They’re addictive in the best way, like chocolate or Game of Thrones. But what is it about these games that make them get under our skin so efficiently? What if everything in life was this fun?
1. Work in short bursts
Well, for one, these games don’t require constant action, like most console and PC games do. They’re perfect for hopping in and out of, the perfect filler for all that dead time life serves up. Waiting for your morning coffee, riding on a bus, or on your lunch break, these kind of games are engineered for short bursts of play.
Pokemon Go fits around your life. You’re not going to get very far in the game if you just sit down and do only that. No. It’s designed to be checked into when you’re out in the world, hopefully presenting a Pokémon for you to catch before getting on with something else.
And you can bring this same approach to your life. Whether that be at work or during study, doing things in short bursts is a proven method of increasing your efficiency and your mood. You feel better, you accomplish more, and you keep yourself hungry to come back. Just like Pokémon Go does.
The optimal length of a work or study session varies from person to person, but generally sessions of under half an hour with a 5 or 10 minute break work best.
2. Constantly promise yourself a reward
You might have endured the brutal punishment of Flappy Bird during its craze a few years ago but you kept coming back for one reason: what if this time you got a high score? The constant promise of reward makes games like Pokémon Go hard to put down. And this is something you can use to hack your own work and study sessions.
Think if you used every one of those breaks between your short bursts spent studying watching a YouTube video or checking into Instagram to see what your friends are up to? You can use the power of gasification to not only keep you motivated, but to bring that crazy-addictive Gotta-Catch-‘Em-All hook into your life.
And a lot of companies are already doing this with their own products. At MCI Institute, we reward students for completing assignments, or doing a certain number of tasks in a certain period. Other online learning tools like Codecademy, a free service to learn code, rewards lesson completion with badges and points toward your ranking.
Humans like getting stuff for the work they do. Building in a reward system for wins you achieve in your own life can be a way to catch that Oddish or smash through an assignment.
3. Make it cute
One thing that sets Pokémon Go apart is the Pokémon themselves. Loveable for the last twenty years, characters like Charmander, Jigglypuff, and Pikachu are super cute and make you want to be around them.
At MCI Institute, our diplomas are built around a simulated workplace called WAMco, a fictional soft drink company. All the staff of WAMco are cutely illustrated and serve as real-world touch points for the stuff you’re learning. From Don Brand, Head of Marketing, to Office Administrator Julie Noted, these characters allow your learning occur through story.
You can apply this same technique to your own study as well. Use coloured pens to mark-up lesson downloads, or decorate your Student Welcome Pack, given to every MCI Institute student, with stickers. There are so many ways you can make your study environment as cute as Squirtle, as colourful as Candy Crush, and as addictive as Flappy Bird. You’ll wonder how getting work done could be this fun.
4. Get out into the world
As well as offering gameplay in short bursts, Pokémon Go is actually built around the technology in your phone to make you get out into the world to play. The GPS tracker and camera allow Pokémon to seemingly appear all around you.
Technology now allows you to get this same freedom of exploration with your work and study. You don’t need to be in a classroom, or sit at a library computer, part of the reason MCI Institute can even exist. Your phone can allow you to be online wherever you are, making that bench down by the harbour or that table in the park is as useful for work and study as it is for catching a Tentacool or a Butterfree.
Humans weren’t meant to be cooped up and we’ve never had so much freedom to do whatever wherever we go. That’s part of what makes Pokémon Go so fun. But there’s no reason why you can’t have that same fun in the rest of your life.
5. Share your experience
I bet we’ve all got a Facebook feed that is bursting at the seams with stuff about Pokémon Go. Whether it’s your friend’s status saying “IKEA have Pinsirs” or screenshots of how another friend started with Pikachu, we’re all in on this.
This social aspect to Pokémon Go makes it even more fun and wildly addictive. You can’t ignore it when everyone is on it. And posting up a photo on Instagram of your study space or that sweet spot you’ve secured at a café to get work done is no different.
You can take the same pride in your work and study as everyone is taking in their Pokémon collections and people will love to see it. Your friends will be interested in your achievements and you should show them off.
Pokémon Go is perfect evidence to the power of gamification. Now that you know how it can be so addictive and fun, you can become a study master just as you’re becoming a Pokémon master.
Learn more about WAMco