You have probably seen them— groups of teens, young adults, and not-so-young adults walking around, heads bent over smartphones. Occasionally they stop suddenly, turn, and walk a different way, or stand stock-still and swipe energetically at the smartphone screen. They’re not crazy— they’re just playing the biggest mobile game in history, Pokémon Go. In fact, within just two weeks of launching, there were more daily Pokemon Go users than Twitter, and the app is seeing more engagement than Facebook.
The great news? These kids and grown-ups are out of their chairs and off their couches, getting exercise, laughing and talking together, sharing a new experience and visiting new places. The not-so-great news is that their obsession with the game might be causing some issues for you and your campus.
Pinpointing the Problem
You may have a lot of people coming on campus who are not students, prospective students, student family members, faculty members, or staff. Most of them are harmless Pokémon Go players, but the sheer number of extra people means that your security staff must exercise a higher level of vigilance. Some of these visitors may wander into restricted or private areas of the campus while chasing a special Pokémon, and that makes additional work for campus security. As the school year approaches and students flood back onto campus, having all those extra Pokémon Go players underfoot could become very stressful for your faculty, security, and staff.
You may also be having a problem with cars driving on campus and simply gliding around and around along university streets. These Pokémon Go players may be playing the game themselves while driving, which is very dangerous, or they may have a passenger along who is playing the game. Either way, their attention might be more focused on reaching a Pokéstop than on being aware of pedestrians and traffic flow. In some ways, the Pokémon Go drivers pose a more real and severe danger than the players on foot.
Scouting the Situation
In order to understand the new flow of the crowds and the new walking patterns around your campus, you need to see your university through the eyes of a Pokémon Go player; so if you haven’t already downloaded the game, do it. Remember that you’ll need 3G, 4G, or Wifi access in order to play.
To download the game for an Apple phone, go to iTunes and find the app, then tap or click the Download button to put it on your smartphone. You can use the Google Play store to download the app for Android devices. Once Pokémon Go is downloaded to your phone, press the “Install” button.
Once you install the game and touch the Pokémon Go icon, you’ll be able to see the world in a new way. You’ll see your starter Pokémon within seconds; it will pop up nearby. Tap it, and your phone will switch to augmented reality mode. You’ll see the Pokémon perched on your desk or on a shelf of your bookcase. Just flick the Pokéball up so that it bops the Pokémon on the head, and the Pokémon will vanish into the ball. There you have it— your first Pokémon.
Walk around campus with the Pokémon app open. You’ll see some buildings marked with blue diamonds. As you draw nearer, the diamonds switch to spinning circles. Those are called Pokéstops, where players can get free items like Pokéballs, berries, and other supplies. Some buildings may be marked with colored towers with a Pokémon at the top. Those are gyms, where players can compete with other Pokémon gamers for dominance. The color of the gym represents one of the three Pokémon teams: Mystic-Blue, Instinct-Yellow, and Valor-Red.
Now you know why specific places on campus are showing an increase of foot traffic throughout the day. Those spots have Pokémon gyms or Pokéstops.
Using the Trend
Before you petition to have every Pokéstop and gym removed from your campus, think about how you might use those locations strategically. People are actually planning their free time around Pokémon Go, deciding where to spend their leisure hours based on the likelihood of collecting more Pokéballs or having more chances to catch a rare Pokémon. You may want to leave some Pokéstops near specific areas like the real on-campus gymnasium, where your students go to exercise or play sports. That way, you’re encouraging the students to exercise while playing the game. You could also leave the gyms or Pokéstops in place at locations such as stadiums, concert halls, concession stands, art exhibits, or libraries.
Luring Pokémon and Extra Revenue to Campus
In addition to gyms or Pokéstops on your campus, you may want to consider “dropping lures” to attract people to certain parts of campus. In Pokémon Go, gamers can purchase digital “lures” in the game and drop them in a location to attract Pokémon. Every few minutes a new Pokémon will show up on their phone in that location. The lures remain active for 30 minutes, and are shown publicly on a map to all other gamers in the area. Because these lures make it easy for gamers to catch more Pokémon you’ll often see large crowds gathering around the lure to get in on the action.
How can that benefit your Institution? Due to the summer breaks that decrease foot traffic on most campuses you’re likely seeing lower revenue at your student center shops or on-campus restaurants. You may want to attract people to campus for a recruiting fair. Whatever the reason you’d like to bring people to certain parts of campus, you can affordably drop a lure or two and see foot traffic increase. Many businesses, particularly restaurants, are already using Pokémon Go lures to attract business.
How much do Lures cost? People who gather at a lure will often drop their own lures, further feeding the foot traffic and making it so you don’t have to pay for your own lures. Lures cost as little as $0.56 if you buy the $100 pack of credits.
Removing a Pokéstop or a Pokémon Gym
Do you really need to remove a gym or a Pokéstop? Here’s how to do it.
Step #1. Your first stop is the Pokémon Go support page. You will probably be able to see it immediately; if not, just log in with your Google account.
Step #2. A short distance down the webpage you’ll see a link to “Report an issue with a Gym or Pokéstop.” Click that link.
Step #3. Next, you’ll see “Request removal of a Pokéstop or Gym.” Click that link.
Step #4. You should now be looking at form that allows you to request the removal of a gym or a Pokéstop. Enter your email address in the blank.
Step #5. Designate the specific Pokéstop or gym that you want removed, and write a brief message about why the Pokémon Go team should remove it.
Step #6. If you like, you can attach a document or a photo to your message to further explain your reasoning for the Pokéstop removal.
Step#7. Click “Submit” and leave the page. Now all you can do is wait.
The Pokémon Go team is currently overloaded with requests and heavy server traffic, but they will try to get to your request as quickly as possible. If the Pokéstop or gym hasn’t been removed after a week, submit your request again, perhaps with additional information.
Remember to be courteous and patient, even if the presence of the Pokéstop is extremely frustrating for you. The Pokémon Go team did not inconvenience you or the university on purpose; the Pokéstops and gyms are assigned based on existing Google Map-related infrastructure from a previous game called Ingress. All existing Pokéstops and Pokémon gyms are placed at local landmarks or places of importance; so the number of Pokéstops is indicative of the number of points of interest and importance that you have on campus. In a way, it’s a compliment to your institution if you have a lot.
Going with the Flow
If you remove all the Pokéstops and gyms from your campus, your students won’t be happy, and they will find other places to play the game. By leaving certain points in place, you can control where some of the foot traffic and automobile traffic goes, and you can encourage students and guests to spend their time in specific areas of campus. It’s all about leveraging the current trend in a positive way.
You may think that the entire Pokémon Go trend is silly; but keep in mind that there are many more harmful things that your students and visitors could be doing. At least, with Pokémon Go, your campus family can forget their differences, share some fun together, and enjoy a simpler reality for a while.