Anyone travelling through the tranquil village of Mount Evelyn last weekend would have witnessed a large crowd of people strolling around heads down, fixated on their phone screens. Upon closer investigation, the people could be seen scrolling proudly through their Pokedex on the Pokémon Go App. At this moment I had the same thought you’re probably having right now: “does anyone still play that game?”
The answer is a resounding yes, with over 36,400 members of the Pokémon Go Facebook group in Melbourne alone. What began as a fad in 2016 is still very much alive, bringing together people from all over the world.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality mobile app that uses the device’s GPS to create a virtual map of the user’s area. The map enables the user to travel around to locations of significance to capture, train and battle their Pokémon to achieve the highest experience level (‘XP’) possible.
The software corporation responsible for the development of Pokémon, Niantic, organise ‘Community Days’ where avid Pokémon players settle on a location to meet up to catch a certain Pokémon character who can only be caught on the day, including the rare ‘Shiny’ Pokémon.
One of the many Pokémon groups in the South Eastern suburbs, known as the ‘Lilydale Raid Group’, often meet in Mount Evelyn for their community days.
Administrator of the Lilydale group, Mark Olsson, said the group started out with their common love for the game and from there a family formed.
“Our community days involve a bit more of a community set up than most groups,” Olsson said. “We have a raffle that goes towards prizes and food and any profits left over go towards organising a Christmas event. We also have a particular trophy that goes to whoever catches the most ‘shinies’.”
The game is a hit for everyone, with the youngest member of the Lilydale group being seven and the oldest 73.
The love for the game is so strong that over 3,000 people have currently signed a petition to bring a Pokemon Go Fest to Melbourne.
Go Fest’s are grand-scale events, usually held in Chicago, Europe or Japan. They attract players from across the world, who purchase tickets to the festival as it allows them to compete in challenges that provide in-game rewards not found outside the festival boundaries.
Lilydale resident Annika Loci is one of the players pushing for a Go Fest to be held in Melbourne.
“Niantic finally decided they’d consider other countries to hold their big events, so a group of us got together and thought we may as well try,” said Loci.
“It’s done mainly through posting pictures from community day or anything Pokemon related on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtags #NianticLive2020 and #GoFestMelbourne. We’re trying to get the non-financial support of some of the bigger stakeholders in Melbourne, such as Creative Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews, City of Melbourne, telecommunications providers and some local MP’s.”
With each Go Fest attracting around 80,000 people, Annika believes the festival would bring millions of dollars into Melbourne through tourism. Niantic takes care of the event itself, organising security and contracting with phone companies to enable a high volume of people to play in the city at one time.
“People think it’s an antisocial game but it’s not,” Loci added. “It keeps you active. We’re out here having a bbq, talking to each other, we’ve been to the movies together and we often go out for dinner.”
The bid is all about getting Melbourne noticed so that even if the group is unsuccessful Niantic may host a smaller scale event in the city.
“All we need is a letter of support from a local member. We want Niantic to realise Australia is interested in an event here,” said Loci.