By Sara Abdeljalil, Economics '18
Walking through campus, it’s difficult not to notice the amount of students on their phones. But you might be surprised by what they’re not looking at.
While the usual suspects are Google-mapping their way to class, a new trend is sweeping campus: Pokémon Go. The game, which was released in July, already has 9.5 million people playing the app each day. The overwhelming popularity of the game has definitely made its way campus, but not as much as anticipated.
How has the trend affected student life on campus?
Let's start with this truism: the life of a college student is difficult. With classes, extra curricular activities, and work, it’s hard for students to find time for games. Something as simple as opening up an app can just be a hassle.
When Pokémon Go was first released, it was the middle of the summer. With an abundance of free time, many students had time to play and get into it. It was fun to jump into the car with your friends and hunt for Pokémon on warm summer nights. It gave many people a reason to go out.
Since returning to school, however, this hasn’t been the case. As sophomore Sana Khan puts it, “[t]here’s just no time to play the game. I haven’t played it at school yet.”
Khan speaks for many students' experience of simply not having enough time to balance fun distractions with books, tests, and social obligations. As junior and community health major Arslan Munir explained, the game has definitely lost active users since school started. Many students aren’t playing the game simply because they don’t have the time.
While you can definitely play the game if you’re strolling down the quad, if you’re running to class, the last thing on your mind is whipping out your phone to catch the nearest rattata.
But tech issues are also to blame. Pokémon Go has experienced several bugs that have deterred students like Khan from even opening the app up.
And then there's the lack of reliable wifi off-campus. Even if you try to play the game off campus, you have to use data since there’s no wifi. The combination of these things kind of makes a game like Pokémon Go a hassle.
College students are all about convenience, and not many students will go out of their way to play a game. While students on campus are still playing it, as this UIUC Pokestop map suggests, it still isn’t as widespread as it arguably should be. It seems as though a minority of the population on campus plays it, mostly due to how little attention it has been getting from students.
Like Flappy Bird and Foursquare, Pokémon Go is slowly becoming another short-lived fad. With popularity peaking in the summer, it’s clear that the fall will simmer things down a bit. In the famous words of Isaac Newton, “[w]hat goes up must come down.”