Released less than a couple of weeks ago, Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm. It is all the rage these days, with young adults walking around out in the real world, with their phones out, looking for Pokemon they can capture, battle, and train. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, Pokemon Go is basically an app (game) that uses the phone camera and maps. The player is required to go out to the streets, parks, running trails, malls, stores, restaurants, coffeeshops, gyms – any place in the real world really in order to find pokemon in an augmented form. They basically collect these Pokemon and use them to fight other Pokemon at gym locations.
This is not the first time an augmented reality mobile game has been created. Ingress is another popular game that was released a few years ago by Google, but not as popular as Pokemon Go. However, the success of Pokemon Go, with “Pokestops” practically everywhere in a person’s local geographic area, has raised some concerns and questions, the biggest being that it is not a very convenient and feasible game for people with physical disabiltiies. A lot of times, Pokemon are placed in inconvenient locations like running trails, in the middle of parks, places that require climbing stairs or generally inaccessible places for people who have limited mobility or are in wheelchairs or use walkers.
There are around 33 million gamers with disabilities in the US alone, and being unable to be a part of an extremely popular gaming phenomenon screams of ableism. Able bodied people have seen great benefits from Pokemon Go. It makes them be more physical, encourages them to venture out, and be more social. However, for people in wheelchairs, it may not be that easy to just go out to “catch ’em all”. Not having the same kind of access to a global phenomenon can be frustrating and demoralizing. Could the game developers have included an accessibility mode that didn’t spawn Pokemon in difficult to reach areas? How about giving disabled people an option to just stay home and play the game without physically getting out?
Why should there be barriers to fun?