Yesterday night, on Saturday 7/22/2017, some of the biggest news headlines talked about how the developer of the internationally known game Pokémon GO, Niantic, once again failed to deliver on announcements and promises relayed from the company’s CEO. Saturday was supposed to be Niantic’s first real-life event, Pokémon GO Fest Chicago, where players would be able to catch all kinds of Pokémon and work together to complete challenges throughout the day.
As soon as the event started, attendees were plagued by lines and mobile services outages (required to play the game). Although some decided to leave, many stayed while angry and yelling ire. The main question here to tackle is how come such a “flawed game,” as attributed by the game’s player base, was still able to continuously attracts millions of players.
Firstly, we can analyze this game from a general perspective using Kelley’s covariation theory to see if the anger the game causes is internal (from the players), or external (caused by the game). The anger associated with the game is high in consensus, as a lot of players feel this frustration towards the game. Specifically, at the event, when the CEO of Niantic stepped on stage, loud echoes of boos were heard and players started to chant phrases like “Fix this game.” The anger associated with the game is also high in distinctiveness, as other games in the Pokémon franchise or other mobile games do not receive so much negativity. These two factors combined with the high consistency of the anger provide enough reason to prove that this anger is externally attributed; it is something about the game itself.
So at this point, we’ve talked about how this game causes frustration and anger, but why do people continue to play? One major reason is nostalgia. Pokémon has existed for more than 20 years, and people want to relive memories from their childhoods. Pokemon GO provides an easy facet to satiate that desire, being on a mobile platform in a world in which more and more people are owning smart phones. In other words, the game is highly accessible. However, not everyone can materialize these exact ideas, and thus the self-perception effect comes into play. People who cannot explain why they continue to play the game notice that since they still open the app and play, therefore, they still want to and enjoy playing the game.
However, I’ve noticed that this blind rage can sometimes be questionable and unjustified, especially in cases where positive news is sent out and yet players still complain. Firstly, when new features are released, some players continue to mock the game and complain in reports that claim that gameplay is improving. People who exhibit behavior like this are going through belief perseverance, as they immediately shut down any ideas that contradict what they believe. This is also a form of self-esteem maintenance, in which the cognitive dissonance between what the player thinks and the real life info are dissonant, so the players must insert new cognitions to convince themselves that the game still is still horrendous. This ultimately leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy, as when people pre-emptively believe that the game has not changed and is still horrible, they will be primed with a negative attitude which will affect their perception and enjoyment of the game, thus making it less enjoyable.
Overall, this game seems to be a social experiment itself, in which it can quickly gather masses of people and get them to march from one place to another as well as manipulating feelings and emotions. When looked upon from a general view, it seems preposterous that a free game on a phone could accomplish so much, but that just goes to show you the power of social psychology.