Pokemon Go leaves art world scrambling to “catch em all”

There is no doubt that Pokemon Go has taken the country by storm. The interactive video game has young children, teenagers and college students alike traipsing all over towns and cities, trying to catch the small animated creatures—virtually, of course. In this age of technology, it’s no surprise that the interactive reality game has had so much success. What does come as a bit of a shock, however, is that such a game—played entirely on smartphones—could have even the slightest effect on the world of visual arts.

The game requires players to get out of their houses and to walk around their neighborhoods—a fact that has been applauded by those worried about the United States’ obesity rates. As players walk around, they look for PokeStops–locations and landmarks where Pokemon can be found and caught. Many of these stops are at art centers, museums and local landmarks.

In fact, it seems to have been the creator of the game—Niantic’s—intention to place PokeStops at places of cultural importance. In a March press release, the company urged users to “explore cities and towns around where you live and even around the globe to capture as many Pokemon as you can … Also look for PokeStops located at interesting places, such as public art institutions, historical markers, and monuments.”

There are countless PokeStops in Rochester alone. Stops can be found at the Memorial Art Gallery, the George Eastman House, the Rochester Museum and Science Center and many freestanding sculptures and murals throughout the city’s Neighborhood of the Arts.

Naturally, one would think that museums and art centers would benefit greatly from people walking around trying to “catch ‘em all” and oming across underappreciated cultural centers that they always knew were there, but never thought to take advantage of.

And yes, people have noticed that more people are wandering around and inside of these sites, but how many of those people are absorbing what’s around them and how many have their eyes locked on their smartphones?

Museums have tried to capitalize on this increased foot traffic by hosting scavenger hunts and activity nights. The game even has a program in which institutions can “lure” Pokemon to their location, hopefully increasing their amount of visitors. So it seems that the game has admirable intentions when it comes to helping the art world.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City—which is another popular PokeStop—recently arranged several meet-ups for Pokemon Go players. While the museum saw an increase in attendance by 13 percent in one week, it is still impossible to know how many of those people were focused on the game versus the art in the museum.

Even though it is inevitable for one to see a beautiful sculpture or painting while playing Pokemon Go in a museum or art center, the fact remains that the piece will stay in the player’s peripheral vision, rather than persuade them to rip away from the virtual world of Pokemon.

Museums, however, still try to market themselves to Pokemon players—and admirably so—in the hopes that at least one of them will put down their phone, look up and see something even greater than a Pikachu.