Pokébarbarians at the Gate

Millions of people from around the world visit the Internet Archive every day to read books, listen to audio recordings, watch films, use the Wayback Machine to revisit almost half a billion web pages, and much more. Lately, though, we’ve had a different kind of visitor: gaggles of Pokémon Go players.

(In case you’ve been living in a cave without Internet connectivity for the last month, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality Internet game. Participants on three different teams band together to find and capture as many types of Pokémon as they can, sending Nintendo a goldmine of personal data in the process.)


It turns out that the stairs of the Internet Archive’s San Francisco headquarters are a PokéGym, a site where players can train their Pokémon and fight with other Pokémon. Fortunately, the Pokémon warriors aren’t rowdy or disruptive; they resemble somnambulistic zombies stumbling around under the control of their glowing smartphone screens.

As Jean Cocteau noted, “Fashion is everything that goes out of fashion.” Pokémon will join pet rocks, beanie babies, and chia pets in the annals of popular fads sooner than later. Perhaps then the gamers will take advantage of their Internet devices to discover that the Internet Archive has much more to offer than the ephemeral, pixelated creatures outside of our doors.

7 thoughts on “Pokébarbarians at the Gate

  1. Mike

    As a PokeStop, the Archive has a unique opportunity to reach out and engage a large and diverse group of potential new patrons. It’s an opportunity that I hope you’re able to use constructively.

    Local businesses have drawn new customers by providing discounts to players, churches have expanded their congregations through game-related events, law enforcement has built trust by actively playing the game with kids, children have learned entrepreneurship by setting up lemonade stands at their local PokeStops, and communities have been strengthened and improved through Pokemon-themed trash pickup days and neighborhood watch events.

    Something to consider: How might the Internet Archive engage Pokemon Go players in a way that further’s the Archive’s mission, rather than being actively disdainful of the members of its local community who are just now discovering the existence of the Archive through playing this game?

  2. Kenya Jones

    Ah but pet rocks, beanie babies, and chia pets weren’t a popular video game franchise that has regularly been getting updated since its release 20 years ago in 1996.

  3. Carolyn

    For visitors who first came to the Internet Archive to battle their Pokémon, I want to extend a warm welcome as both an employee of the Archive and a long time Pokémon fanatic (go Team Mystic!). I’ve had a lot of fun watching the PokéGym located at 300 Funston switch hands over the past few weeks across the Red, Yellow and Blue teams and it’s been exciting for me as a Bay Area transplant to learn more about the neighborhoods I travel through via PokéStops.

    A few suggestions to get Pokémon trainers started exploring the Internet Archive:

    Watch Twitch Casts of Pokemon Red: https://archive.org/details/TwitchPlaysPokemon
    Read through copies of Nintendo Acción a Spanish language game magazine: https://archive.org/details/nintendoaccion
    Learn how to make a Pikachu balloon hat: https://archive.org/details/PokemonPikachuHeadBalloonTutorial

    Stay safe out there trainers!

  4. Abby

    Jeez, David, could you be any more curmudgeonly about their write-up of this game? Way to belittle folks who are enjoying something new and enjoying going outside and interacting with new people from all walks of life, dude. It’s a good thing you wrote up how annoyed you are with those players outside your doors instead of trying to actively engage them and use the Pokemon Gym as a tool to draw attention to the great things your archive has to offer! Otherwise people may not know how great you are at recognizing trends and avoiding participating in them while making sarcastic comments about those “zombies” who find enjoyment in new things.

    Also, since you brought it up, the information sent to Niantic labs is no worse than traditional Geocaching apps that have existed for a whole lot longer than Pokemon Go (https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/15/dont-believe-the-pokemon-go-privacy-hype/). Nintendo/Niantic most definitely collect less data on you than Snapchat does, so if you’d like to get grumpy about widely popular apps whose data permissions are outrageous, why not start there?

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