City Weekend

Pokemon Go hailed as an ‘old fashioned treasure hunt’ bringing generations together

With entire families venturing Hong Kong streets and parks on nightly “Pokemon hunts”, the augmented reality game is being praised for connecting people, parents and even grandparents with their children

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 10:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 11:35am

Pokemon Go has been branded many things since its release in Hong Kong last month. Police have labelled the game a safety concern, critics have slammed it as pointless and some businesses have used its features to draw customers.

But one significant benefit, according to some Hongkongers, is the game’s ability to bridge the generational divide within the family unit.

“The point of the game is to get people out and about,” Yuki Leung, 35, who was out hunting Pokemon with her two children, husband and mother-in-law in Tuen Wan Park on Wednesday night, said.

Nowadays it is not uncommon to see entire families out hunting Pokemon together after work. And with both her children now on summer vacation, Leung said playing the game together had provided the perfect opportunity for quality family time.

“If we are out for dinner, we always explore the nearby areas to catch Pokemon,” she said. “If we have dinner at home, I still take the kids out for a walk .”

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The swift rise of smartphone technologies and online social networking sites in recent years has long been considered a key contributor to increasing social isolation and the disconnect between younger and older generations.

But Professor Samuel Chu Kai-wah, who teaches game-based learning at the University of Hong Kong, said some of the features in Pokemon Go, such as team battles and lure modules, are bucking that trend.

“In a world where people are becoming more isolated from each other due to smartphones, they naturally crave social interactions. Even more so between people from different generations,” he said.

He said Pokemon Go had created a convenient way for parents to develop common interests with their children, and described it as “a good old-fashioned treasure hunt”, which could be understood by all.

While walking around Hung Hom Promenade on Thursday night, Ivy Tsui, 25, told the Post she would regularly catch Pokemon with her parents after work.

“Initially, my father thought Pokemon were real-life animals and had even asked to bring a tote bag along on our first Pokemon hunting trip together,” she said, laughing. “But today, he is a seasoned participant.”

“I even explained the game to my 89 year-old grandfather,” Tsui added. “It took him a long time to understand it while my parents were already teasing him for being out-of-date.”

For some families, the nightly hunting excursions can go on for hours. Man Keung Choy, 48, who was out with his two children in Tsuen Wan Park on Wednesday catching Pokemon for the third day straight, said they could easily go for three to four hours.

“In all honesty, my son who is now 16 years old, rarely hangs out with me anymore. But this game is definitely lessening the distance between us,” he said.

Choy said he would do online research with his children on the whereabouts of rare Pokemon before planning out each night’s hunting strategy.

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Dreamt up by Japanese creators Satoshi Tahiri, Junichi Masuda and Ken Sugimori in the mid 1990s, Pokemon has been a favourite among children for 20 years, starting with the television series then debuting on the Nintendo Game Boy in 1996.

Paul Cheung, 50, who was hunting Pokemon in Hoi Sham Park with his adult son during the week, said he remembered buying Pokemon games for his son when he was in school. He said playing the Pokemon Go app brought back old memories.

“This game facilitates communication between people of the two generations. The community suddenly feels more in harmony for some strange reason,” Cheung said.