Mobile Serious Games in the age of Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go

Apparently, the huge success of Pokémon Go [1] has lead to highly controversial discussions. Some predict, that Pokémon Go will just create a very short hype [3]. Others expect Pokémon Go to be a door opener to further AR-based, context-aware, location-based games [4], including mobile serious games. Obviously, there are a lot of issues to be discussed and solved, when location-based AR games shall gain a relevant market share, among which are security and privacy concerns [5].

Essentially, Pokémon Go is a location based treasure hunting game, which takes a number of game mechanics already available in Ingress [2] to the famous Pokémon field. On the one hand, people appreciate, that Pokémon Go combines video gaming with outdoor activities. This leads players to discover new places, meet other people and to be physically active [6]. On the other hand, people fear Pokémon players to move around like Zombies. Are they really interested in their environment? Do they imposing danger on themselves and others [7], [8]?

Will mobile serious games soon look like this? Pokémon players in Bern (Image: Fred Schaerli, CC-BY-SA-4.0)

Mobile Serious Games

I aim to look at Pokémon Go from a different perspective. Being active as researcher in the fields of mobile serious games and augmented reality, I have seen a lot of approaches towards using the world as a playground [9][10] especially for educational purposes. For many years, location-based games only filled a small niche in the growing games market. But with commercial games gaining success in this niche, the playground may have just changed. People, who are used to play mobile games in their spare time may also more easily accept similar games for serious purposes. At the same time, AR supporting game platforms emerge, which may open up to additional use cases. Accompanied with emerging wearable technologies such as Hololens [11] or, interacting with an augmented physical world will certainly be part of our daily experience.

Technology is moving fast and users experience new ways of interacting with augmented playgrounds. Consequently, now is the time to design mobile game-based learning scenarios building on accepted game mechanics, introducing AR-based learning elements. We know some of the questions to be answered already since the term game-based learning has been coined:

  • How do we combine game elements and learning elements into a consistent game play?
  • How do we avoid a mismatch between game play and learning goals?

Others emerge due to the new interaction possibilities:

  • Which interaction patterns are powerful and efficient for users?
  • How do we design learning objects to be appealing, interactive and to foster curiosity among players?

Especially, the use of connected mobile devices enable multi-user gameplay scenarios, which also challenges our traditional way of education by allowing learners to collaborate or compete to achieve game and learning goals.


  1. Pokémon Go Homepage:
  2. Ingress Homepage:
  9. Klemke, R. (2013, 12-13 September). Towards immersive situated learning with mobile serious games. Keynote presentation at Game Industry Trends 2013 (GIT 2013), Warsaw, Poland.
  10. Klemke, R. (2015, 5 March). The world as playground: Mobile Serious Games with Augmented Reality. Keynote presentation at Research & Innovation Week, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa.
  11. Hololens homepage:

Author Roland Klemke

Prof. Dr. Roland Klemke is researcher at the Welten Institute of the Open University of the Netherlands. His research topics include serious gaming, game-based learning, mobile learning, augmented reality, open architectures, web-based collaboration, and collaborative content production. He is experienced in the fields of software development, e-learning, knowledge management, mobile solutions and web-based systems. Prof. Klemke holds a professorship for game design at Mediadesign Hochschule (Mediadesign university of applied science) in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he teaches subjects like game engine architectures, game development methodologies, game physics, and artificial intelligence for games. Additionally, he is CEO of Humance AG, a Cologne based software development company specialized in mobile and web-based solutions, coordinating research and development activities.

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