The Pokémon Go game is bringing crowds of players to all kinds of public spaces, so of course museums, galleries, and libraries are working to attract these people, get them through the doors, and engage them.
It feels like every cultural institution worth its salt has used social media and friendly signage to let Pokémon players know they’re welcome. The smart team at Queensland Art Gallery / Museum of Modern Art, just next door to where I work, put out Pokémon lures at the weekend to attract extra players to the South Bank.
It’s great to use the game as a way of welcoming the whole community into such spaces. In an age when culture institutions’ performance is often measured on crude metrics like footfall and visitors through the door, you’d expect no less from canny culture professionals.
I was really pleased to see the State Library of Queensland respond swiftly to the Pokémon craze. Signs went up advertising our free recharge points – which not every institution has – and the on-site coffee shops for thirsty Pokémon trainers.
But I wanted more than this from our library. The whole point of such an organisation is to help people explore knowledge and culture for themselves: our top-line mission is “Inspiring Queenslanders’ Creativity Forever.”
While we shouldn’t push unwanted services on folk who are quite happy just playing Pokémon, if we don’t make any effort to link those players with our programming and collections, then what are we? Just another space for you to hunt Nintendo’s branded creatures in. Might as well be a park or a town square or a pub for all it matters where you are.
Time was of the essence and it’s better to swiftly pilot something, then learn from your errors, than spend too long planning and fussing. I talked to Clare Thorpe from our Visitor Experience team and in our spare moments this week, we cooked up a little experiment to link Pokémon players with items from the State Library’s collection.
Part of the appeal of Pokémon Go is that it’s built around an established 20-year-old brand. Pokémon Trainers in their twenties remember the game and the show from the late 90s and early 2000s; kids today are still watching re-runs on TV; and even thirtysomethings like me saw more Pokémon than we ought to, because as undergraduates we watched kids’ cartoons when we should have been at morning lectures.
So Clare and I teamed up with Margaret Warren of the library’s Queensland Discovery team. We dug out three stories from the Pokémon universe and linked them to items in our collection.
My favourite was Meowth, mascot of the lovable villains in the Pokémon animé’s Team Rocket.
Movie-loving Meowth is the only talking Pokémon and we linked his story, which takes him from the wilds of Kanto Province to the streets of Hollywood, with Queensland filmmaker Littleton Bullock’s 1930s short “Barney the Performing Dog.”
To get the ball rolling, Clare interviewed me for a quick blog post at the SLQ website: “Go Deeper with Pokémon.”
We then used signage with QR codes and hyperlinks to connect library visitors with this digital content.
Casting around for an illustration we could use on the signage, we saw that Amy Walduck of SLQ’s Business Studio had made a Post-It Charmander on the window of their venue:
This made me so happy. Being creative is more about listening and sharing than being “the clever person who has all the ideas”. My favourite bit of my current role is when I get to notice what someone else has done and connect it to a wider programme or community.
Amy’s colleagues sent us a photo of her Post-It Charmander. Not only could we use this to illustrate our Pokémon signage, but it provided another attraction for Pokémon Trainers, younger children, or the Poké-curious to try and locate on our site.
In an ideal world, our signage would link directly to dedicated pages for each Pokémon, perhaps using Augmented Reality as well as QR codes, and we’d dig even deeper to find more intriguing links to our collection and programs.
We’d also like to include some other weird and wonderful stories from the Pokémon universe. I’m fascinated to discover that Growlie’s backstory seems to be lifted from an obscure 19th-century English novel, for example.
…but that’s for the next phase of our Pokémon pilot, as the organisation explores how it can help Pokémon trainers make the most of everything the State Library has to offer.
For now, go enjoy some of the Pokémon links at the SLQ website. Happy hunting.