There’s been a lot of publicity about the new Pokémon Go game recently and I have to admit I feel a bit torn. It’s just great that this game is getting people outside in the fresh air and maybe, just maybe getting more exercise, but I do think it is a little bit sad that it takes a computer animated game to do that. Where did it all go wrong??
Nature is all around us; we have our own real life Pokemonesque characters in our gardens; beautiful butterflies, fabulous bees and magical creatures of all sorts, not to mention the plants. Just like the mythical Pokémon characters, these amazing creatures can pop up anywhere, can be captured on camera and collected in a camera roll to be studied, admired, compared and even scored later. Just like in Pokémon Go a rare bee or butterfly sighting can boost someone’s confidence, win peer praise and help everyone understand a little bit more about the creatures all around us. It’s not that different really, so maybe we can use the Pokemon driving force to do some good for nature too.
Today I caught my first Pokémon
If you can’t beat them join them and so today I downloaded Pokémon Go and I caught my very first Pokémon out in the garden. Squirtle, a blue turtle like creature was lurking by the back gate and jiggling about trying to evade capture. It took me a fair few tries to work out how you are supposed to ‘capture’ the little creature, but very soon he was listed as my first Pokémon on my Pokédex. And just like that bumblebee visiting the campanulas in the garden or the honeybees collecting pollen and nectar from the persicaria, the first sight of a garden Pokémon was actually fun. It brought a smile to my face. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the game launched, but having tried the game, I can now see that it really could work. If someone could invent a nature based version, it can’t be that difficult can it? We could call it #BeeComeOn (or Beekemon) and it could follow the same sort of theme (with permissions etc. of course). It would be location based like Pokémon Go, you could use the GPS to mark where the creature was found and then use a list of suggested creatures to identify what it is according to the habitat. So garden creatures might be different to those found at the coast.
In the garden, the common or garden carder bees might be the easiest to capture on camera but a rare Great Yellow Bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) or the Shrill Carder Bee (Bombus sylvarum) would be the Holy Grail. And just like the Pokémon characters, we can’t possibly know what or who will turn up in our gardens, or where. In the same way that the computer game gets you out and about searching for Pokémon characters, you could be out searching for bees, butterflies, bats or other wildlife.
Real time nature recording
Of course these systems already exist with the Big Butterfly Count (http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/) or the great British Bee count (https://www.foe.co.uk/page/your-brilliant-bee-photos) these are real ways to spot fabulous magical creatures, photograph them, identify them and learn more about them. Maybe if they were a little more game-like then they might catch on even more than they have, it could be the next step up from Pokemon Go. We need our native wildlife to create the same stir and excitement as Pokémon and actually harness the energy this innovative game has created.
Tried and tested
So on a cooler summer evening I took the dog out and became that ‘person with a phone’ not taking much notice of my surroundings. It was a bit too windy for butterflies and bees, but nevertheless I spotted half a dozen bumbles and a few solitaries and a glimpse of a peacock butterfly. In the same time, with my phone ready for Pokémon Notifications, GPS enabled and my avatar spinning around surveying the landscape – nothing. Not even a hint of Pikachu or Bulbasaur or any other fictional creature. That seems to be a dozen hits for my #BeeComeOn and zilch for #Pokémon Go. I’ll try again sometime soon and maybe choose a place with more people, some buildings and not a remote nature reserve on the top of a hill.
Nature based Pokémon
So I’m laying down the gauntlet to the makers of Pokémon. You’ve got the youngsters (and a few oldies) outside, fantastic. Can you make a nature based version that champions real live magical creatures that appear in our gardens and in nature and help the kids identify the species and learn more about how they can be saved? Our pollinators and insects are in jeopardy; the next generation has a critical role to play. Let’s help inform and educate them so that they can see real butterflies, bees and bugs are just as fascinating to document and collect (on a camera phone) as fictional Pokémon’s. #BeeComeOn.