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The familiar places we dream about: Pokémon GO and nostalgia during a global pandemic

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This article explores the impact of COVID-19 on the developers and players of Pokémon GO through the lens of nostalgia. Focusing on the game as a nostalgic text that works to remediate physical and social spaces, we examine how gameplay has changed in response to players’ restricted mobility and isolation during the 2020 global pandemic. The release of Pokémon GO in 2016 was a watershed moment in the development of mobile augmented reality games. Building on a popular culture franchise familiar to many, it fused cutting-edge technology with memories of the past. Previous studies suggest playing Pokémon GO is associated with dreamlike nostalgia for childhood adventures. But these experiences were intimately linked with physical movement, proximity to others, and the exploration of outdoor spaces. Confined to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, once free-roaming players are now being encouraged to embrace isolated, sedentary play. There is an additional layer of nostalgia in operation as players and developers alike reminisce about socializing and playing in the world outside the home. This article therefore explores how Pokémon GO mediates player experiences and unpacks its role in negotiating both memory and contemporary societal trauma.

Keywords: Pokémon; augmented reality; memory; mobile games; nostalgia; space; time

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000403754078Curtin University

Publication date: September 1, 2020

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a double-blind peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social and cultural meanings that are produced and circulated through everyday media and practices as products of consumption. It explores popular narratives and iconographies as intellectual objects of inquiry, and as integral components of the dynamic forces that shape societies and identities. The journal publishes articles that focus on Australasian examples, as well as broader critical and comparative topics viewed through a global lens.
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