Pokémon’s recently announced various games and services. We have unsurprising sequels like Detective Pikachu 2 for the Switch. We have a new storage service, which allows you to transfer your Pokémon from past games to the upcoming Sword and Shield called Pokémon Home, and Pokémon Masters – a mobile game where you battle trainers from past instalments. But the one that attracted everyone’s attention was Pokémon Sleep – a sleep-based video game.
For the time being, we don’t know much about this game. But what we do know is that it is a game that will be built around sleeping, the same way Pokémon Go was built around walking.
If that doesn’t merit a quick analysis, I don’t know what does.
THE EVERYDAY FRANCHISE!
I’ve written about Pokémon before. Both how it’s historically influenced franchises as a Media Mix, and how it’s going through a franchise renaissance with their recent video game blockbuster – Detective Pikachu.
Pokémon Sleep looks to exist in the same market as Pokémon Go. It’s a video game built around everyday activities.
Pokémon’s been very good at this. Not only does their franchise have a real-world element to it – adventuring out to catch monsters. It “Gamifies” walking.
As for the term: “Gamification” is simple enough to define. It is the act of adding game-elements to non-game contexts.
It’s something to make the everyday “More fun.” Pokémon Go made walking “More fun” after all.
Adding a second economy to an everyday activity is certainly something that’s becoming more prevalent now, and increasingly so due to our current technology.
Whereas past franchises would often create spin-off video games or products, they were more separate entities with a consistent brand. They weren’t something that gamified your everyday life.
Pokémon Sleep looks to have a far more “Everyday” feel to it in a way that a Star Wars cereal simply couldn’t.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT SLEEP
Pokémon Sleep looks to gamify sleep. The ins and outs aren’t yet clear, but that’s the gist of it.
I imagine that there is a secondary goal to reward healthy sleep behaviours – maybe if you sleep too much or too little, that impacts the exp your Pokémon receive?
But the important thing to take away from this is the everyday impact it has.
Ian Bogost wrote a very good article for the Atlantic: Gamification is Bullshit.
In it, he critiques adding reward systems to better incentivise behaviour. Making a game out of completing repetitive tasks can incentivise the player to become more efficient at their task. Through this, the “Gamifier’s” intentions are realised.
I’m going to use Appstronic’s series of games to best illustrate this point. They’re a company that produces games to improve performance in various fields – whether it’s instructing an employee on sandwich-crafting, dressing, or appropriate work-place interaction, the principle is the same.
Sure enough, as you improve in the game, your performance improves as well.
As they say on their website: “Practice Makes Perfect.”
I can see Pokémon Sleep as a means of ‘self-gamification’. As with a fitness app, it could incentivise you to adopt healthier sleep patterns. Clock in your six-to-eight hours and you get a Snorlax.
Maybe there’s a random element to it as well, where if you wake up at certain hours you can get rarer Pokémon – incentivising an early start.
I mean, this is speculation on my part, but it’s certainly possible.
AN AUTHENTIC PRODUCT?
I like to think Pokémon Go as an inevitability for the franchise. The core gameplay of the franchise has always been about going out, interacting with, and catching monsters in the everyday world.
It has been there since the beginning Game Boy games: in universe you would leave your virtual house and travel the world with a partner Pokémon.
In the real world, you would trade and battle through link cables with your friends and neighbours.
This was a feature that is integral to the Pokémon philosophy.
As the technology advanced, it was this philosophy that was carried throughout. Trading and battling online. Catching Pokémon through the mobile app.
Pokémon Sleep is no exception to this philosophy.
There are already game mechanics and Pokémon built around dreams and sleep.
Back in 2011, Pokémon even had a website called ‘The Dream World’ where you could play online games with Pokémon that you had caught on your DS.
The everydayness of the franchise can expand to other mediums, and Pokémon Sleep is just another way to do that.
… of course, the “gameplay” could be terrible. But at least the authenticity is coherent.
I’m not going to pretend that every franchise can have spinoffs the way that Pokémon does.
I don’t think it’s realistic to assume that you can have other properties as AR or Sleep-based games without losing their authenticity.
In 2010, Pokémon introduced the now-discontinued Dream World mini-game mechanic. Two more Pokémon – Munna and Musharna (based off the dream-eating Baku) – were introduced to coincide with this feature.
Ask yourself, how easy would it be to do Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Sleep, or Star Wars: Sleep, or Harry Potter Sleep.
It would be tricky and risking their good-standing by coming across as a poorly-planned out cash grab.
I guess you could just about manage Nightmare on Elm Street Sleep – back in the 80s there was a phone line dedicated to Freddy Krueger reading you a bedtime story … yes, that was real. But again, that’s the transmedia cash grab that I doubt your typical consumer would gravitate towards and is best avoided today.
POKEMON GO, SLEEP, EAT, PRAY, LOVE!
The idea of Pokémon Sleep coincides on our current fixation on modern-day entertainment.
With advances in AR technology, we are seeing more franchises adopt similar approaches to having a more everyday appeal.
There is a somewhat dystopian element to this as well. We now have a franchise that interacts with you when you walk and sleep.
Properties are no longer about passive engagement. They are about active, everyday interaction.
It’s this sort of multi-platform “gameification” that could see real potential in the ways we interact with our franchises, and the roles they play in our lives beyond simply being about entertainment.
We now have a franchise that determines when you walk and when you sleep – and can incentivise behavioural changes with more “fun”.
Is it too far off to consider a future where we have Pokémon Eat, Pokémon Poop, and Pokémon Wash?
It’s certainly getting increasingly plausible.