Pokémon Go is an AR game for mobile devices, where players catch Pokémon by travelling through the real world. This location-based game invites players to go out to visit public landmarks, which the game marks through either PokéStops (map markers that give small gifts upon interaction) or Gyms (map markers where players can battle for larger rewards). Players can catch, collect, and battle with their Pokémon, and compete and collaborate through joining one out of three Teams (Valor, Mystic, or Instinct).
The developer of Pokémon Go, Niantic, is an active member of the Playing for the Planet Alliance. Since 2018, they have organised a Sustainability Week in Pokémon Go as an addition to their annual Sustainability Campaign held in April. During their campaigns they focus on large group clean-ups around the world (cleaning up and helping recycle several tonnes of garbage), with the goal to encourage connection between Explorers, local non-profits, and sustainability efforts. They do this in collaboration with numerous Non Governmental Organisations.
Due to COVID-19 they have shifted this goal to also embrace individual action, focussing on encouraging players to take action in their own neighbourhood (for example, by encouraging cleaning trash, planting native shrubbery, or building bee hotels). Niantic also offered an option to scale up this type of local engagement, by offering funding through their ChangeX Sustainability Challenge for long term community projects.
During the Sustainability Week, Niantic added new event-exclusive objectives, new Pokémon, and free in-game items to Pokémon Go. In 2021, players were encouraged to document and share sustainable actions by tagging #SustainableWithNiantic and @NianticLabs. Collectively, they could work towards three tiers of in-game rewards by taking care of their community, adopting new sustainable practices, or helping out a local cause focussed on sustainability. In 2022, for every player that walked 5km, Niantic planted a tree (up to 100,000).
- Niantic, “Niantic’s Sustainability Campaign,” accessed April 29, 2022, https://nianticlabs.com/en/sustainability-campaign/.
- Niantic Social Impact Team, “Sustainable With Niantic: A Recap of Our Latest Efforts,” Niantic, May 13, 2021, https://nianticlabs.com/blog/sustainability-campaign-21-recap/?hl=en.
- Yennie Solheim, “Making Strides for a More Sustainable Future,” Niantic, May 3, 2019, https://nianticlabs.com/blog/earthday2019recap/.