5 Ways to Combine Pokémon Go with Studying

Pokémon Go and studying are not the most obvious bedfellows.

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In fact, it’s lucky that the game was released in July, as had it been released any earlier, it might have led to people abandoning their revision in favour of playing it during their study leave. Thankfully, it’s come out in time for most people’s summer holidays, so you can play it to your heart’s content. People have made the most of Pokémon Go in lots of different ways, from pedometer-wearers who have seen their steps shoot up, to the animal shelter that suggested Pokémon Go players take one of their dogs for a walk while playing. In the latter case, players were told to ask for “the Pokémon dogs” – presumably those who were calm and trained enough to manage with an occasionally distracted walker.

Cute dogs AND Pokemon? We're in!
Cute dogs AND Pokémon? We’re in!

It’s important to note that this isn’t an article about how to replace studying with Pokémon Go – so don’t think that you can quit studying Chemistry in favour of hunting Charizard. But a game that involves getting out of the house and walking around does lend itself to learning something on the way – or at least, more than you might learn if you were just sitting at home playing Candy Crush. So we’re not encouraging you to switch studying for Pokémon Go, but we are suggesting that while you’re playing Pokémon Go, you could also be learning. Broken down by subject, here’s how.

1. Literature

What counts as literature? You might have quite a narrow curriculum that consists mostly of novels with the occasional poem, usually something at least a hundred years old, thrown in for variety. Or your school curriculum might be considerably broader, covering a swathe of different types of writing, such as drama, film scripts, essays, prose poems and more. Literature can be broadly defined as written artwork, which Pokémon Go isn’t – but one component of the study of literature is the study of stories, and the Pokémon universe certainly has those.
For example, take Jigglypuff, a Pokémon whose chief characteristic is that it sings people to sleep – and once they’re asleep, uses a marker to draw on their faces. If you’ve read any Greek stories, especially the Odyssey, you’ll be aware of the story of sirens. In Greek mythology, they were women who sang beautiful songs that lulled all who heard them into a deep sleep. Because sirens live on rocky islands, their chief targets were sailors.

Sirens or siren-type creatures can be found across multiple mythologies.
Sirens or siren-type creatures can be found across multiple mythologies.

Once the sailors were asleep, the outcome was bleak, although versions differ. In some stories, the ships were wrecked on the rocks surrounding the islands where the sirens lived; in others, the sirens crept on board the ships and killed the sailors themselves; in others still, the sailors simply died in their sleep as the sirens continued singing. Sirens didn’t exactly look like Jigglypuff, as they were usually depicted either as beautiful women, or as women who were in some way crossed with birds. But the story of the sirens – and related mythology – does seem to have inspired the story of Jigglypuff all the same.
All Pokémon have some kind of story attached to them, and with a little bit of thought or research you may be able to work out what might have inspired that story, or how it could be connected to other things that you’ve read. So when you’re next playing Pokémon Go, don’t just grumble that you’ve caught yet another Rattata – think about the cultural and historical associations of rats and rat-like creatures, and how they might have informed that Pokémon’s story.

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2. History

Pokéstops and Pokémon Gyms are integral features of Pokémon Go. At Pokéstops, players can load up on items such as eggs and more Pokéballs, as well as Revives and Potions at higher levels. At Pokémon Gyms, you battle other players’ Pokémon in the hope of claiming the gym for your team. Gyms and Pokéstops have to be located somewhere publically accessible – not in the middle of a gated office complex, say – so they are frequently landmarks of some kind. Public art installations, historical monuments, and markers of historic or cultural interest are the usual form that Pokéstops take.

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Oxford‘s Bodleian Library: perhaps the city’s most iconic Pokéstop!” width=”300″ height=”200″ /> Oxford‘s Bodleian Library: perhaps the city’s most iconic Pokéstop!

In the UK, these markers are often part of the blue plaques scheme. Blue plaques began as a concept in 1866, to place plaques on the houses or other locations where significant events had occurred. The first was created in 1867, marking the house on Cavendish Square, London, where Lord Byron was born. In Greater London, the scheme is now run by the charity English Heritage, while elsewhere in the UK, many town councils and local history organisations run their own scheme along similar lines. In Oxford, there are blue plaques relating to the surrender of the city in the Civil War, and the houses of Mary Arnold Ward (a social reformer), Dorothy Hodgkin (Nobel Laureate and crystallographer), CS Lewis (writer) and Walter Pater (scholar), among many others. One historical Pokéstop in the city is the Old Bodleian Library.
You’ll be burning through your battery and data usage anyway while playing Pokémon Go, so when you’re visiting a Pokestop of historical significance, take a moment to google why it’s important or worth commemorating. It’s a great way of learning not only the history of your local area, but also of what people at various times have considered to be worthy of historical remembrance. You might want to consider why some people and places have been granted blue plaques and others haven’t.

3. Maths and Statistics

If you’ve been playing Pokémon Go for more than about 30 seconds, it’s probably become clear to you that some Pokémon are rather rarer than others. Rattatas and Pidgeys are ten a penny, while no one has yet produced evidence of having seen Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Mew or Mewtwo yet. At the rarer end, there are Pokémon that can only be hatched from 10km eggs, as well as the four region-specific Pokémon: Tauros in North America, Kangaskhan in Australia and the Pacific Islands, Mr. Mime in Europe, and Farfetchd in Asia.

Are Magikarp more likely to occur around water?
Are Magikarp more likely to occur around water?

What’s fun is that at the moment, what’s rare and not rare is entirely a matter of anecdote. Niantic haven’t released a sorted list, so our knowledge of what is and isn’t easy to find depends entirely on what other players have posted on the internet – and it seems that what’s rare varies a fair bit depending on where in the world you’re playing.
If you’re looking to practise your stats skills, as well as adding extra interest to the game, you might want to start looking into the statistical likelihood of the Pokémon you’re catching. Exactly how you go about that is up to you, but it’ll involve figuring out how many Pokémon you need to catch before you can start drawing conclusions, and then updating your estimations depending on the number of Pokémon you’ve caught. The easier version might be to look at charts such as the one featured here, assign a probability to each degree of rarity, and then see if your own experiences match up, or if you’re unusually lucky or unlucky in the Pokémon you catch.

4. Biology

Easy marks on many Biology exams can be had from a question about the different foxes. Chances are you’ll have seen it. There’ll be a photo of a fennec fox, which lives in the Sahara, and an Arctic fox, which lives where its name would suggest. If the question is a little more challenging, you might get a photo of a red fox as well, which lives across the whole Northern hemisphere. You’ll be asked to spend four or five lines describing how each type of fox is adapted to its environment.

It's easy to see the inspiration for Fennekin, the fox Pokémon.
It’s easy to see the inspiration for Fennekin, the fox Pokémon.

The obvious point to make is that the fennec fox has unusually large ears, which help dissipate heat, while the Arctic fox has smaller, tucked-in ears, in order to preserve heat. The red fox has ears that are roughly between the two, which suits the temperate climates in which it lives. There are also points to be made about colouring and fluffiness (though referring to it as “fluffiness” is not normally the route to top marks). These questions are asked so frequently that the level of adaptedness of the fennec and Arctic foxes to their environments comes up in the first three sentences of their respective Wikipedia pages.
Players of Pokémon Go have released some brilliant photos of Pokémon in oddly appropriate environments, such as Magikarp floundering on a pier or Pidgey looking judgmental over someone’s fried eggs. Next time you find a Pokémon, take a moment to consider whether it’s adapted to the environment you found it in. Would Diglett cope in an urban setting? Could Poliwhirl survive on a beach in the August heat? Would Slowpoke have to depend on being cute enough for a conservation effort? Think about what such a creature would be likely to eat, where it would fall in the food chain, what local predators would make of it and whether it would have the resources to defend against them.
Pokémon Go is a rich source of Biology questions in general, because not only do you get to see Pokémon in their habitats, you also get to consider how they evolve. You’ll know that in the non-Pokémon world, organisms evolve as a result of selective pressure. The textbook example is the peppered moth, which evolved darker patterns during the Industrial Revolution, as lighter moths were less effectively camouflaged against trees that were darkened by pollution. When the worst coal-burning days of the Industrial Revolution came to an end and the trees on which the moths lived grew lighter again, the moths similarly adapted to return to their initial lighter patterns.
Pokémon do not evolve as a result of selective pressure, but you could always pretend that they do. This doesn’t work for something like Caterpie or Wheedle, which don’t exactly ‘evolve’ but instead go through a chrysalis stage to emerge in their ‘evolved’ form. However, it could work for something like Charmander – what pressures might cause Charmanders with a more aggressive form to be more reproductively successful, over time resulting in a Charmeleon? And what might then reward the Charmeleons that developed proto-wings to the extent that it was such an evolutionary advantage that they ended up as Charizards? You can have fun with the process that causes Diglett to evolve into the three-part superorganism of Dugtrio.

5. Design

The radio show 99% Invisible takes its name from a quote from the architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller: “Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable”. 99% Invisible focuses on design, arguing that good design is – you guessed it – 99% invisible. To put it another way, we don’t notice when things are working well nearly as much as we notice when things are working badly. With bad design, you might notice that you’re struggling, whether that’s to open a door where the handle has been designed in a stupid place, or to read a text where the colour of the font and the colour of the background aren’t sufficiently contrasting. With good design, you can just open the door or read the text, and you probably don’t spend any time on thinking about how easy it was to do it.

Pokémon's ubiquitous success is a masterclass in effective design.
Pokémon’s ubiquitous success is a masterclass in effective design.

Pokémon Go combines a mountain of design choices. There’s the long-standing design of the Pokémon themselves, in a Japanese style that nonetheless appeals to Western audiences. There’s the design of the mobile app – the way it looks, responds to touch, and so on. And possibly most interestingly of all, there’s the overall design of the game, the choice of walking distances, the time Pokéstops take to recharge and all of the other aspects that have to be perfectly judged. If Pokéstops recharged too slowly, people might give up on the game; if you only had to walk 500m to hatch an egg, it might all seem too easy. If you’re interested in design, you could learn a great deal from thinking, while you’re playing, about why each aspect of the game works – and even if there’s anything that you would improve.

What have you learned while playing Pokémon Go? Let us know in the comments!
Image credits: pikachu plushiesplaying pokemon go; siren in copenhagen; dog and pikachu; bodleian; magikarp; fennec fox; pikachu hama beads.


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