When we saw the impact of the launch of Ingress in 2012, we learned that mobile AR games can inspire positive impact when given the right motivation. When people go outside to play a game, they become more active, explore more of their cities, and oftentimes have more opportunities to interact socially with others - friends and strangers alike. And once people are outside, both engaging with the community and moving around, amazing things start to happen - they lose weight, make new friends, and find that outdoor gameplay is a useful tool in battling things like physical disabilities or mental health issues.
In 2017, we partnered with Big Heritage, a UK-based nonprofit seeking to increase the experiences of heritage through fun activities and programs, to host a huge event on July 16 that brought more than 17,000 Pokémon GO fans and many more community members to the town of Chester for a day of exploration and learning. We learned a lot from the event, furthering our understanding of how real world games like Pokémon GO and Ingress can inspire discovery and exploration.
Over the last 6 months, Big Heritage partnered with us to introduce a new educational program to classrooms in the UK that used Pokémon GO to teach students about history and orienteering skills, utilizing compasses, maps, and grid references in the game. Students aged 7 to 9 years old, from 62 different classes across 30 schools, participated in these learning exercises and were able to experience heritage by looking at maps of their local communities, ranging from small country villages to urban areas. By looking at maps from around the 1880s through present day, they were able to see how their area had developed over time. Big Heritage worked to ensure that all types of learners were included, adjusting the educational program throughout the process.
In the United States, we partnered with Tech in the Tenderloin, a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on giving youth living in the most challenging neighborhoods more exposure to technology. We spent time showing kids aged 6 to 18 how mobile games are built, having them participate in activities that included color sheets, mobile game testing, and, of course, walking around the venue to understand how an AR game works. Our team was excited to see so many eager faces, and by the day’s end we made connections with kids and teachers that deepened our involvement in the community.
Education and learning is an important piece of our social impact work, with programs like Big Heritage and Tech in the Tenderloin demonstrating just how impactful games and AR technology can be. We’re looking forward to continuing our commitment to education, not only in places like the US and the UK, but around the world. If you’re using AR or one of our games to help promote education, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you’re working on!
—Yennie Solheim, Social Impact