Today I wanted to talk about othering, specifically because of Pokemon Go!. In Pokemon Go!, there are “teams” that you can select: Team Mystic, Team Valor, and Team Instinct, which are all supposed to represent different sets of values. Now, I’m up in the air as to whether it is a good thing or a bad thing to have added these teams to the game, since the game makes players pick a team and thereby identify with that team, but it is a thing nonetheless.
So lets talk about some of the pros of making these teams. By forcing players to pick a team, they cause players to identify with something. This is good because it creates a sense of camaraderie and community within the greater Pokemon Go! scene. Which creates a bridge for players to communicate between one another and bond. In turn, this can lead to friendships that transcend the borders of our communities. Seriously, I was recently added to a small Pokemon Go! Facebook group that already has a few hundred members. It can also make for fun sporting rivalry between the three teams. This also allows for people looking to use Pokemon Go! as a common identification method more ability to divide players—for example, lets say there is a store looking to add competition between players as well as make teams. Isn’t it super easy to simply have them split into different Pokemon Go! teams? Not only will it be a fun contemporary term, but it also will make the connection between teams instant and strong, rather than awkward and fleeting.
Ok, so the good aside, here is the problem with making teams like this. There is no regulation, which means that on Facebook and so on, some of these playful feuds and sporting rivalries will escalate into full blown discrimination. In that group I mentioned above, Team Instinct is being picked on as the lesser of the three teams already. Which is a scary proposition for a game that released less than a full week ago. How far will it escalate? Can we expect to see gang-like activity from these crowds? The othering that occurs as a result of splitting the game into teams creates a strange duality in which this game that was popularized through nerd culture has created cliques of “good” and “bad” within the community.
So what’s the best thing to do about this? Well for now, nothing. I don’t have the answers, and the reality is that there is a non-zero chance that this game won’t just die out quickly if the other issues of the game (incomplete worldwide release, lack of certain desired game modes, etc) are left unfixed. Additionally, the extreme aspects of othering within Pokemon Go! are not entirely mean spirited yet. There is a good chance that they won’t evolve into worst territories. However, if things do get worse, it is important to have a plan of attack. Which is simple—eliminate the teams. Seriously. Teams are cool and all, but why not leave the clique making to actual small groups of friends? They’ll get together to play still—heck I know groups of people going for bike rides and everything. Anyways, let me know what your ideas are on the subject. Have a great day!