Pokémon Go: Benefits, Costs, and Lessons for the Conservation Movement

10 Nov 2017

Pokémon Go, an augmented reality (AR) smartphone game, replicates many aspects of real-world wildlife watching and natural history by allowing players to find, capture, and collect Pokémon, which are effectively virtual animals. In this article, we consider how the unprecedented success of Pokémon Go as a smartphone game might create opportunities and challenges for the conservation movement. By encouraging players to go outside and consider various aspects of virtual species’ biology, the game could increase awareness and engagement with real-world nature. However, interacting with Pokémon could alternatively encourage exploitation of wildlife or replace players’ desire to interact with real-world nature. We suggest a number of ways in which Pokémon Go could be adapted to increase its conservation impact, and how new conservation-orientated AR games could be created. We conclude that Pokémon Go sets a precedent for well-implemented AR games from which the conservation movement could borrow a number of ideas.