Buvette Masthead

Pokémon Go in Canberra

Michelle Brotohusodo

Unless you’ve been living under an Onix (it’s a rock Pokémon, geddit?), you’ve probably heard about Pokémon Go and its rapid uptake.

While its popularity has bemused and angered some (the Pokémon No camp), there are a large group of people who have embraced the game and the community that’s come with it. I’m one of them, having fond memories of the TV show from when I was at school (I won’t say how old I was at the time).

Pokémon Go (PoGo) was released in Australia on 6 July 2016. Local enthusiasts Mitchell McInnes and Robbie Parker started a PoGo Canberra Group that same day. Their intent was just to create a forum where they could talk about Pokémon with their friends, but within a week the group’s membership had expanded to more than 5,000 people (and is currently sitting at around 8,300).

“We didn’t anticipate that the group would explode like that,” Mitchell said. “It’s amazing how fast it’s grown. The best thing about it is how the community has banded together and helped each other.”

What’s so great about the PoGo Group?

From a personal perspective, I completely agree with Mitchell. I really enjoy the community that’s developed. People have organised get-togethers, made new friends, provided advice to those trying to find a particular Pokémon, shared successes, disappointments, memes, and items of interest (like this Snorlax beanbag I would totally buy if I was rich). It’s a nice feeling knowing that if you post something in that group, people will be equally enthusiastic instead of making fun of you for playing.

The game’s made people go out and brave the Canberra winter, congregating at places like Questacon and Mount Ainslie and battling at Pokémon gyms. Strangers smile at each other and begin chatting over Pokémon tips, and it’s a great leveller—players range in age from 4 to over 60.

A great connector

This community feel extends beyond Canberra. I was in Brisbane last week for work. On previous trips I’d just stayed in my hotel room after work or dinner, but this time I ventured out to see what Pokémon I could catch. One night I compared levels with a group of guys who also gave me tips on where to find particular Pokémon in Brisbane. Another night I befriended a girl and we ended up Pokéhunting together for an hour and a half, which was a lot more fun than going alone.

The hazards…

Yes, there are some hazards to playing PoGo, like accidentally walking through puddles and developing RSI from throwing Pokéballs, but for the most part it’s harmless fun that has brought people together and also made people walk a lot more than they probably normally would! And to try and address concerns about people’s conduct online or while playing, the PoGo Facebook group introduced a Code of Conduct. This covers online behaviour as well as behaviour at places like Questacon and the Australian War Memorial.

The future of PoGo

I asked Mitchell if he thought the passion for Pokémon would continue. “I think it will, but I can see a lot of people who only joined because it was the ‘in thing to do’ dropping off in the coming weeks. I know I’ll be playing for a while, that’s for sure!”

In addition to Mitchell and Robbie, the group now has two event planners, Richie and Jenny, who are helping to organise Pokémon walks and planning other activities. There are two upcoming walks, one on Sunday 14 August around Lake Burley Griffin and one around Lake Tuggeranong on Sunday 28 August (if you want a Pikachu, I’ve heard this is the place to be).

For more information and to join the community, visit the Pokemon Go Canberra group page.


Michelle Brotohusodo

Michelle moved to Canberra vowing to stay for two years, tops. More than 10 years later, she’s a bona fide Canberra convert. When she’s not working in her day job as a public servant, she’s enjoying Canberra’s culinary delights or finding fun things to do/see in and around town. More about the Author