How Pokémon Go is changing the culture of Croydon

By - Wednesday 17th August, 2016


Max Shirley headed into Croydon to see how Pokémon Go is taking over, with some very positive results

Image author’s own.

Pokémon Go fever has hit Croydon since the official release of this mobile game on 14th July. The augmented reality app has simply taken the world by storm: the game has already surpassed dating app Tinder in terms of downloads, and has more daily users than Twitter. One only has to venture into our town’s centre to see a myriad of citizens glued to their phones attempting to capture elusive Pokémon.

With the release of Pokémon Go. older Pokémon trainers have been given the ability to return to a much loved world, and newer players are able to experience it for the first time. I took to the streets to test my skill and see what all the fuss is about.

Image author’s own.

Upon entering Croydon’s centre I was relieved to see a sea of Pokéstops, gyms and more (as depicted above); in my area I am limited to only two Pokéstops. Pokéstops are, in layman’s terms, shops within the Pokémon world. As a trainer you go to them and collect various resources, which will help you on your journey to be the very best… like no one ever was. Commercial sponsorship of the game hasn’t arrived yet (although this can only be a matter of time) so the Pokéstops seem curiously retro: it’s a tour of local churches, monuments and buildings with artwork and murals. Perhaps we should draw the attention of the Croydon Heritage Festival‘s organisers to this phenomenon!

Now we have our Pokéballs and health potions it’s time to try and catch some Pokémon: after all to catch them is my real test. Pokémon can spawn anywhere and everywhere, and so you constantly have to be on the ball looking out for them. Currently only the original 150 Pokémon can be seen and caught in the wild, but more have promised in upcoming updates.

To catch a Pokémon you simply click on the icon, which appears on your map, and then toss your Pokéballs in its general direction. If the ball hits then the Pokémon is caught, but can escape, and so you may have to capture it again.

Image author’s own.

At this point I must make an apology: I’m sorry to all those people who nearly bumped into me as I randomly stopped in Croydon’s high street to catch a Pokémon.

The game rewards movement and travel, as different locations are home to rarer and more desirable Pokémon. I haven’t found any particularly rare creatures in Croydon, but I did catch a common Pidgey outside the Whitgift Centre. Wandle Park is a hotspot for water types.

We have our Pokémon, what do we do with them? Well, to train them is my cause. That’s right: you can level up your beloved Pokémon and enter them in gym battles once you deem them to be an unstoppable force. Once entering a gym for the first time one must choose between three teams: Mystic, Instinct and Valor. Now, I’m not going to sit here and argue with you: Team Mystic is the one… end of. I tested my technique at Saffron Square Fountains gym, attempting to remove the scum that is Team Instinct from the pedestal.

Long story short: I lost.

Pokémon Go has made a real difference to Croydon’s parks

Pokémon Go isn’t the most content heavy or complex game yet it provides an enjoyable experience and encourages exercise. It provides opportunities to find new friends as you and strangers work together to combat high level gyms. In Croydon it’s difficult to miss Pokémon trainers as you can always see large crowds gathering in a search for a Charmander or hear the occasional snigger from behind, followed by: “Ah, you’re playing Pokémon Go!”.

Pokémon Go is changing culture everywhere: already in America the app has helped stop crime. It brings together physical and social activity: this can only be a good thing for Croydon. Parents speak with enthusiasm of their offspring’s newfound enthusiasm for long sociable walks with friends whilst the game is played, and there’s a noticeable change in the profile of park users as the families with young children heading for the swings are joined by teenagers. Croydon’s park managers and friends of parks group have been tweeting about the difference it’s making and there is now serious discussion of what parks can learn from Pokémon Go. In the future, technology may become a key aspect of their appeal to visitors.

Pokémon Go is not without its flaws: the game can be repetitive and it murders your phone’s battery life, but I look forward to its continued growth. Now excuse me: I’ve gotta’ catch ‘em all.

Max Shirley

Max Shirley

Max recently finished Sixth Form at a local independent school and will be starting an English Literature degree in the new academic year. Max is a copy-editor at a Croydon-based start-up. Twitter: @max_shirley_

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  • Anne Giles

    I think I shall avoid Croydon then. :-)