After dinner last night, I went to pull our grill into the garage and I couldn't help but notice the small group of people across the street huddled around their phones and pointing in my direction. Normally I would have been a little weirded out, I probably would have looked around to see if I was missing something tweet-worthy happening in my vicinity, maybe even asked them if they needed help finding something. But I knew exactly what they were doing; they were playing Pokémon Go.
If you haven't heard about the Pokémon Go phenomenon by now that's impressive, because it's everywhere. It's an augmented reality (AR) game that uses your smartphone's camera, GPS, and position sensors to tell the game what to display and where to display it. The game layers the digital (Pokémon Go) world on top of your real one so you are literally in the game. Even if you aren't a Pokémon fan, it sounds pretty sweet, right?
The funny thing is, this technology is not new. Smartphone AR games have been around for years, but nothing has been quite so successful as the millions of downloads we are seeing from Pokémon Go. So what's the secret? Why has this game exploded in popularity and what can this teach us about the virality and engagement of the learning we're developing?
Pokémon Go hit the sweet spot of breaking technology and nostalgia for the Game Boy-loving generation or as my coworker Thomas Wrench described it "A perfect storm of whimsy, fun, nostalgia and 20 somethings with data plans." Those cards they use to trade and fight in the schoolyard are now superimposed into real life! Please excuse millions of millennials as they geek out about this.
Make it Experiential
Studies show that you should get up and move around more at work, CNN reported that you should aim for 2 minutes of moving for every 20 minutes of sitting. Thankfully bite-size and micro-learning has slowly shortened average seat time for eLearning modules, but what about making it an experience? Something you have to move around to complete. You literally can't play Pokémon Go without moving around. It's an adventure.
Give Rewards, Motivate
Rewards motivate. And as my coworker, Tagg Petersen, mentioned, "behavior change requires motivation. Even if that's finding fake things in real places. Or to quote one fantasy football expert's words, 'We like to brag about fake teams that we're fake coaching.'"
Have Fun and Take Inspiration From Anything
No one ever said learning had to be boring. Don't limit yourself to inspiration from learning publications - think outside the box! Heck the idea for Pokémon Go started "as an April Fool's joke in 2014 when Google released a funny video that mashed up Google Maps and Pokémon." Now look where it has gone!
Make it Available and Addicting
Make your learning something users want to and can access anytime, anywhere. I'd bet that for active Pokémon Go users any little moment of downtime over the past week - the walk to work, the 5 minutes before a meeting, walking the dog, etc. - has been completely monopolized by Pokémon Go. It's mobile, relevant, and addicting. Heck while writing this I found myself thinking, I wonder how close the nearest Pokémon is from my desk…
Whenever we find something that hits big and trends like Pokémon Go, ask yourself -- what is making this hit big? And is there anything I can learn from this to make our learning better? At the very least, whether you choose to participate in the Pokémon Go phenomenon or not, it does beg the question - what else can we do with augmented reality? But that's another blog post...
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