A whole new era of gaming is taking not only the streets of New York by storm, but University of New Brunswick campuses too. Pokémon Go is changing video games, one PokéStop at a time.

Nathan Thompson, PhD candidate in sociology and member of the Games and Culture Research Group at UNB in Fredericton, says this movement is something the game industry has never seen before.

“It is a moment of change in our culture and as a game researcher this is something you want to jump on. We need to capture this moment, like you capture Pokémon,” says Mr. Thompson.

Throughout the year other devices and technology have come out with augmented reality, but it has not taken off like Pokémon Go. Mr. Thompson believes that seeing how well the game is doing will shape some of the games that are under development right now.

It’s the changing of game space that has created such popularity for the game, says Mr. Thompson. Instead of the game space being your television or mobile device, Pokémon Go adds a game layer to everyday life and the world around us becomes the game.

“There has never been a public space of gaming, where you just go out and see other gamers. You are a key part of the game and that is exciting for a lot of people”

Mr. Thompson knows a thing or two about gaming, as he just finished up his research for his PhD on video games.

“If I tell people I did my PhD on video games, they ususally say, ‘that must have been easy for you.’ When in reality it’s a burgeoning and intensive field of research,” says Mr. Thompson. “Pokémon Go is a perfect example of why we need that kind of research to better understand how these emerging games shape our culture and how our culture shapes games.”

It’s the hype of Pokémon Go that Mr. Thompson would like to capture to demonstrate the importance of game research. There are game researchers across Atlantic Canada, but nothing similar to the UNB Games and Culture Research Group.

The Games and Culture Research Group is a group of scholars actively pursuing research on games and their relationship to culture. The group consists of faculty members, game designers, graduate students, and senior undergraduate students working both individually and collaboratively on a variety of game research projects.

Their main goal is to produce new and exciting research on games in order to make UNB a hub for gaming research in Atlantic Canada and to demonstrate how important it is to study the practice of gaming.

“There is really no other hub in the Maritimes for games research and with our Games and Culture Research Group we have the opportunity to capture this moment. People are now paying attention and it’s our time to jump on this. We have some of the best researchers in gaming right here on the UNB campus.”

The Fredericton campus has become a hotspot for Pokémon Go players since the game was released, and UNB is fully embracing it. On Friday evening the university is launching a Pokémon recharging station outside of the Harriet Irving Library to welcome the community with freezies and a device charging booth. The booth will run Friday evening (6-10 p.m.) and Saturday and Sunday afternoons (1-4 p.m.), with more dates scheduled for the future.

Media contact: Kelsey Pye

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