Day 3: Talking about the Bulbasaur in the room

by Tobi Mattingly | Jul 24, 2016

Look… we know you’re out playing Pokémon Go this weekend, so we might as well talk about it.

The augmented reality (AR) game has been out for less than 20 days here in the US, and before you could say Pikachu it had already begun to shape our communication. I posted something on Facebook the other day about “sitting near a Pokéstop because someone dropped a lure nearby”, to which a psychologist friend responded, “When is it that Pokemon Go was released? Because I’d like to do a study about how quickly an entire new language can be assimilated into a culture.”

Stores and restaurants are attracting customers with in-game “lures” as well as signage inviting folks to hunt the Pokémon inside. There’s already at least one Pokémon dating app inviting “trainers” (players of the game) to match and meet up for Pokémon dates. Pokémon pub crawls have started to spring up.

What about theatres? Is there a place for Pokémon in our world? Sean Douglass thinks so, in his piece on the Clyde Fitch Report entitled, “Steppenwolf the PokéStop?: How Theaters Should Use Pokémon Go.”

What does this have to do with The Language of the Stage? Audience engagement, marketing, getting butts in the seats – the root of it all is storytelling. Communicating with your audience and your community. Douglass mentions some surface ideas for using Pokémon go as an engagement tool, but I think we can go even further. Why not create a total experience around the game? Douglass himself points out that theatres don’t usually benefit from random foot traffic.

There’s a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of theatre lovers and game lovers. (The House Theatre is one group in town who has figured this out, with its Game Night fundraisers at the Cards Against Humanity Headquarters, and its recent success with the almost eight-month run of The Last Defender.) How can directors tap into this overlap and draw in new audiences through this vehicle of story?

Give it a bit of thought the next time you’re out hunting down that elusive Vaporeon.

Tobi Mattingly is a Chicago-based director, actor, music director, and teaching artist. She is the founder of Artistic Conspiracy, an arts organization dedicated to creating and enabling world-changing theatre. Through this organization, she helps professional theatremakers take control of their theatre careers through learning and balancing artistic craft, bodymind practices, and business/marketing management.