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Many of us are Millennial but not geeks. In fact, we never liked videogames. However, Pokémon Go is admirable because of the way it impacts on human behavior and mobility patterns. Considering it a solution to sedentary lifestyle, it would be possible to conjecture an important opportunity for economic development. Since it defines the route of its players, it would be possible to extract the pedestrian flow at the rush hour by locating Pokémons in non-traditionally visited areas, but what else could be done?
Safer areas with Pokémon
Many of our citizens are afraid of walking in some areas when the sun sets. Better streetlights or more policemen in the street are not enough to appease the fear of being robbed. What would happen if besides policemen, Pokémons were there? It is predictable that fans would go to those neighborhoods thus generating more activity and encouraging residents to go out again.
On July 15, hundreds of people went to the Central Park at midnight –some of them even travelled to New York – to capture Vaporeon. As vectors in a space-time axis, these creatures make people move in a certain direction and with a specific sense. Although they are intangible, Pokémons are valuable among gamers and confer them a certain status, thus becoming an incentive for geeks to move to certain zones.
Gyms to revitalize neighborhoods
This “movable goods” add to the “immovable goods” such as the gyms. What would happen if these virtual spaces were located in abandoned areas? We would expect that the simple fact of people attending such areas would be helping them to recover. If extended planning and processes were needed in the past to convince a private sector to invest, the new flow of persons would leave no room for doubt and the largest café chain would open stores. In this way, there would be a transfer of real value from virtual value.
PokeStops: The touristic route
These intangible “movable and immovable goods” could be used at a higher scale. If many persons travelled to the Big Apple, what would happen if some Pokémon were placed only in some very specific latitudes? I think it would be an opportunity for traditionally non-touristic cities to entice new travelers to visit their PokeStops and capture those creatures there.
New technologies would be redefining territoriality, which began with participative experiences such as programming hackathons and community mapping. By means of georeferenced data, people increasingly appropriated the space. If up to now citizens had an impact on environment, possibly virtual reality is generating the opposite phenomenon: the land becomes an operator on the subject. By generating an incentive mechanism altering displacement patterns, Pokémon Go is part of this reconfiguration.
With increasingly vague limits, Niantic is integrating virtual and “real” dimensions, thus impacting on planning processes. This hybridization represents opportunities to recover appropriation of the public space and bring more activity to the streets. The capacity to generate value and obtain a surplus value could help revitalize areas, generate new economic activities and increase tax collection. Perhaps, the most attractive aspect would be its practically inexistent cost (economic and political): if locating goods were not effective, virtuality would very easily revert this.
But the state of telecommunications could undermine this potential. In Latin America there are 700 million lines, but only 28.6% are smart phones and almost half of them run on 2G. Still pending is the need to implement policies favoring digital inclusion and better quality connections. Moreover, some accidents took place, which suggests that new regulations are needed to provide safety to gamers.
Its potential and the need for regulations would make one thing clear: the time has come for urban planners and programmers to work together to manage effectively these two converging realities where we as citizens are living.