Pokémon Go, CETRA and the World Around Us

Like millions of others, many members of CETRA’s staff have been captivated by Pokémon Go fever and actively play the game. It’s amazing how this simple game, initially created more than 20 years ago, translates to our company and transcends global communications.

Pokémon Go can bring together people of many generations, cultures and languages, including those who may not normally meet one another.

It encourages socializing, physical activity and multi-cultural understanding.

For instance, Randy, a member of CETRA’s US-based team, went to a local meeting place in his Philadelphia-area hometown to meet up with others, while playing at a designated hot spot. Another staff member found that the pastor of a church nearby to CETRA’s headquarters opened his doors for all Pokémon Go gamers once he learned his church was a gym.  Over social media he welcomed gamers with air conditioning during a hot summer day, and offered free snacks and drinks as a further enticement to gather people together under his roof.

Pokémon Go brings people together in a way they can communicate, and, maybe even learn to better understand each other. It provides a common outlet that can serve as the foundation for relationships that, hopefully, extend beyond the interactive game.

William, one of CETRA’s senior translation project managers, has taken this to incredible heights. A native of China, he now lives near Philadelphia in Jenkintown, PA. Pokémon Go has opened up an entire new social network for him in the US and he is the envy of his friends in China where Pokémon Go is not available for download.

“I take a walk after dinner these days, and meet lots of new people. They would either walk around or stay in groups at Pokémon Stops. Even the police joined us in playing once. We shared where to find good Pokémon, how to level up and more,” said William.

“Jenkintown has a tradition of ‘Red vs. Blue.’ In Pokémon Go, you get to pick the team of Red, Blue or Yellow.  So you can see the hometown Pokémon Gyms are taken by either the Red team or the Blue team, and the color changes frequently, which means the  tradition of “Red vs. Blue” continues via the game.”

William learned about a park and walking trail, which had many Pokémon and a gym, near the office through the game. William also talks about the game with the SEPTA bus driver he routinely gets on his way home from the office.

However, William, always the consummate professional, was also quick to point out a localization issue in the game.

“Pokémon Go use meters and kilometers instead of miles to measure walking distances,” he said. “For me, it’s very convenient as in China we use meters. However, I constantly hear people in my community complaining about this as Americans use miles. So this is an issue of localization.”

They’re working on it, I’m sure. (If not, we’d be glad to help.)

Even the two young sons of CETRA’s Chief Marketing Officer spotlight the cultural and societal impacts of Pokémon Go on the other side of the Atlantic.

“We live in a small town just outside of historic Heidelberg in the south of Germany. Nothing much ever happens here. Little did we know that our little town would be buzzing with people playing the same game as us,” they said. “ No matter what time of day, we have never seen this many people on walks or bike rides.”

“People every where are glancing around, then back at their phones, looking to see where the next Pokémon might be hiding. And the best part is, we could talk to them,” they continued. “Normally it is difficult to start up a conversation with someone you don’t know, mainly because you have no idea what their interests are. But through PoGo, we know that we can talk to these people, in our age group, and ask them what they’ve caught, where the best place to go is, etc.”

“In addition to meeting lots of new people, we were surprised to find historical points of interest all around town, including an old cigar manufacturing plant hidden among residential buildings. We had never even seen some of these places before!”

One son concluded: “I think this whole trend, which I hope turns into a longtime activity, is incredibly interesting to observe and take part in. We’re meeting new people, finding new places, and experiencing a bit of a nostalgia along the way. It’s a great use of the newest technology, and might open the doors to even more educational applications.”

CETRA is a language service provider, but its mission extends beyond simply providing translators and interpreters. It has a larger, more meaningful purpose to help people to better understand each other and the world around them.

Pokémon Go is such a simple game. This simplicity is common in many games, and  gaming does not require many words to spark connections.  In fact, many games can help bring together others online who share a common interest in a particular game.

Yet, Pokémon Go brings together a broader base of people. It gets people active, globally. It bridges cultural divides, and, yes, maybe it can even help people to better understand each other and the world around them.