Pokemon Go

Watch out, Tinder: Pokemon Go is new way to find love – by bumping into people

Seeing someone equally as engrossed in Pokemon Go as you might just be the start of something wonderful. There’s even a website to help you find a match - called PokeDates, inevitably

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 5:59pm

Pokemon Go is better than Tinder. That’s what Willie Diaz says when asked if the app is useful for finding potential partners. Diaz’s friend, Josue Quinonez, says he has already met three women by using the app.

“It’s not as shallow, it’s more like we have a common interest, we like to go outside and discover new things,” Diaz says. “Discovering new things is so much more dope than ‘I’m going to sit at home and swipe left or swipe right.’”

On a Wednesday night, Diaz and Quinonez are standing in the Myriad Market Hall in San Francisco , a carnival-like plaza with numerous street food stalls and pop songs blasting through the speakers.

But unlike a carnival, the crowd consists of 20-somethings adorned with Pokemon Go costumes or accessories, their eyes slightly glazed from one too many US$4 Jell-O shots (free if you show the bartender a rare Snorlax creature caught via the Pokemon app).

Hong Kong goes predictably Pokemon Go crazy, and businesses try to cash in

Myriad’s nostalgic atmosphere for the tipsy 20-somethings represents how millennial players are using Pokemon Go – an augmented reality twist on the popular ’90s Nintendo video game – to interact with each other in a new, sometimes romantic, way.

The festival was the ending of a citywide Pokemon Go bar crawl, where thousands of enthusiastic “trainers” roamed around the city with their eyes glued to their smartphones to catch cartoon Pokemon monsters sprawled along street corners and stores. Since the AR game landed in Hong Kong last Monday, this is not an uncommon sight in this city either.

The game is inherently more social than other smartphone games. Pokemon Go forces players to leave their house and visit popular monuments or areas where they can catch Pokemon creatures.

It has features that encourage players to collaborate with each other, such as teaming up to fight monsters. It’s also wildly popular: It took just seven days for the game to reach 10 million downloads, a record for a mobile game, estimates researcher Sensor Tower.

An emerging dating scene is one of the brighter side-effects of widespread use, which has been linked to a mounting list of dangers, from players getting shot, robbed and stabbed, to others falling off a cliff or driving a car into a police vehicle.

Quinonez says the game is a wake-up call to meet new people. A natural introvert, Quinonez says the social nature of Pokemon Go allows him to get out of his comfort zone and speak with other gamers to bond over Pokemons caught or sighted.

“We’re playing the game on our phone a lot of the time [and] we are looking down, but when I see someone looking down, too, I’m like ‘yo I gotta talk to you, too’. I get excited,” he explains.

I think the great thing about Pokemon Go is you’re able to talk to strangers without judging them aesthetically, like how you have to do on Tinder
Evadora Zheng

Like Diaz, Evadora Zheng finds herself having more meaningful and fun conversations with fellow Pokemon Go players, instead of talking to men just because they looked good enough to swipe right.

“I think the great thing about Pokemon Go is you’re able to talk to strangers without judging them aesthetically, like how you have to do on Tinder.”

It’s no coincidence the game produces this kind of love connection, as players of the game tend to be at prime dating age. About 83 per cent of a survey of Pokemon Go players say they are aged 18 to 34, according to the mobile market research firm MFour.

Dating sites are already capitalising on Pokemon Go’s romantic nature. Project Fixup, a web service that matches users with pairs based on their interests, recently launched what it claims is the world’s first Pokemon Go dating service. Called PokeDates, it received so many applicants that it temporarily broke the website, says chief operating officer Dank Korenevsky.

The browser-based PokeDates invites users to submit applications with their interests and preferences for a “PokéMate”, as well as a schedule of free time to meet with a partner and go catch virtual monsters.

Twitter reaction to Pokedates

“[Pokemon Go] could be a really good way to break the ice to get into a normal conversation,” says Korenevsky . “And when they run out of Pokeballs, they could sit down at a bar or a cafe and get to know each other some more.”

Zheng says the game has prompted her to interact with strangers more, like when she saw a group of guys on the street playing and started teasing them about it. She said the game can even act as a filter for finding dates – if someone else is playing the game, it shows her they have a shared common interest in the “geeky” video game.

“It really helps filter out the people, because if you see a really cute, attractive person playing Pokemon, it shows you that they are not afraid to embrace the more geeky, nerdy side of themselves as well,” Zheng said. “That’s something I totally value in a significant other.”