When Walls Can Talk

Animate Cities and Digital Rhetoric

Authored by: Elizabeth Losh

The Routledge Handbook of Digital Writing and Rhetoric

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138671362
eBook ISBN: 9781315518497
Adobe ISBN:


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On July 6, 2016 Pokémon Go, a free location-based application for smartphones, was launched in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Building on a fan base nostalgic for a nineties franchise of collectible cards, animated cartoons, and Gameboy programs that originated in Japan, this augmented reality game soon drew at least fifty million players on continents across the globe and was installed on mobile devices at least a hundred million times. Using the interfaces of their personal mobile phone screens, participants could gather resources from Pokéstop landmarks with a horizontal swipe and attempt to catch various exotic creatures (Pokémon) by hurling virtual Poké Balls at their targets with a vertical swipe. Players could also battle other “trainers” in specialized “gyms.” All of this interaction with a virtual world—scanning the landscape, gathering rare items, managing inventories, and earning status—could take place while walking through fantastical computer-generated versions of everyday streets and neighborhoods. Players could also acquire new Pokémon by evolving digital organisms from their existing stockpiles of specimens or by hatching eggs. Additionally, as a fitness tracker, the game could reward pedestrian exercise, since walking and running in real life could accelerate progress in the virtual environment. Monetary investment was incentivized as well, because purchasing assets with real currency in the online store could facilitate leveling up activities in the game.

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