3 Things Professional Trainers Can Learn from Pokémon GO

By now, you’re probably tired of news stories and blogs about Pokémon GO. But if you’re a professional trainer—especially if you care about gamification and training—you should read at least one more.

While Pokémon GO (or PG) can be seen merely as something millennials play to relive a childhood pastime, it has potential to be much more than a game. It could redefine gamification in 2016.

PG is proof that technology can guide users into accomplishing a task. Trainers the world over have been trying to find a way to get people to do this, by creating engaging, game-like content. Here are three ways Pokémon GO is doing just that.


The technology in Pokémon GO is relatively new to the gaming world— adding Augmented Reality (AR) and a Geographic Information System (GIS). As a result, the app allows users to be immersed in the game world and in the real world—simultaneously.

Additionally, the user gets to create their own journey throughout the game, giving them complete control over the experience. This is a major breakthrough in the gaming world. Historically, users prefer having as many choices as possible. PG’s interactivity is also reflected in the retention and response rates of those playing the game, as marketers are discovering when using it to promote a product or service.

If the key to training is engagement, the PG “treasure hunt” model is a prime example of how to capture an audience.

Going to the Next Level

Marketers often use two channels—social media and gamification—to achieve their goals. Social media contains ads, sponsored content, and celebrity endorsements—all encouraging users to buy. Gamification entices users to make a product or system a part of their daily life.

Combining social media and gamification is no easy task. For every success (FitBit) there is a notable failure (the Apple Watch). Pokémon GO is different because the company never had to convince people to use it. Anyone familiar with game playing is likely to want to use the system, and talk about it with their friends.

PG users are motivated to do one of two things. Either they either go out of their way to collect points (like going on 4 mile walks just to find creatures) or they let Pokémon GO become a regular part of their lives—collecting points whenever it’s convenient. In other words, as with social media, they make PG a regular habit.

For learning professionals and trainers, convincing people to use a learning system is one of the toughest parts of implementing a learning strategy. Users want learning to not impede on their existing life, so the best strategy is to make it a self-reinforcing habit.

Nostalgia Drives Change

For millennials, Pokémon GO is a blast from the past. Positive memories of past encounters are a powerful incentive to do anything, so training professionals should take that as a cue. Whether training is literally in game form or not, the content should always bring to the learner’s mind something that reminds him or her of a past success. Not every situation has the nostalgic power of Pokémon, but there is almost always something from past experience that can be used to drive or reinforce behavior.

Trainers and Learning Professionals need to capitalize on the power of manipulative systems like Pokémon GO. This means leveraging what users consider a positive personal habit (getting outdoors more), something fun (playing a game), and inherently interesting (experimenting with new technology).

Trainers need to rethink the task of persuading people to use their learning systems. Instead, they need to focus on systems and techniques that coincide with a user’s everyday life.


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