PokemonGO Teams and Social Psychology

Very recently, I had a real problem with how competitive the PokemonGO teams are. There’s a difference between trash talking and making people feel uncomfortable.

At first I was angry. Teams Valour, Mystic, and Instinct sounded so arbitrary. Some argued that it was the mascot that made their team great – Zapdos for team Instinct, Articuno for team Mystic, and Moltres for team Valor. Here’s an example of some the trash that’s come out of the competitive side of joining team Valour, Mystic, or Instinct in PokemonGO:

Content Warning – A meme that makes fun of disabilities

See more on Know Your Meme

Having said that, the competition is driving the PokemonGO gameplay forward. How interesting would the game be if we went after computer generated opponents all the time?

Not good at all. Boring even.

That’s why after I calmed down a bit, I looked at some different points of view.

One Twitch streamer said “The trash talk is just for fun. Don’t take it

YouTube content creator and Pokemon expert PokeKellz said:

The competitiveness needs to be taken in a spirit of fun and belonging. Making other people feel uncomfortable or out of place is going too far.

Niantic, the developers behind PokemonGo, clearly recognize that competitiveness is a big driver in human behaviour, and therefore gameplay.

How else would they keep the PokemonGo app interesting?

So I thought, why not unpack the social psychology of PokemonGO:

  1. In social psychology, the model used to explain group competition uses in-groups, and out-groups
  2. Group power and resources affect how distinctly an individual draws lines between their own group, and the out-group
  3. How distinct these lines are is also affected by how strongly individuals perceive their in-group aligns with relevant traits, such as intelligence, strength, or bravery.

Say for example a team valor member has a gym held down for several days, and has lucky eggs and Pokecoins at stake:

  1. Team valor is know for its passion and motivation.
  2. They work to keep the gym, staying motivated to check back, and eventually claiming more resources.
  3. Thus that team valor member is encouraged to see themselves as motivated and passionate
  4. They see themselves as distinct and separate from the other two teams.

This is one explanation for the source of PokemonGo’s competitive atmosphere.

Does clearing up the reasons for motivation help? Is team harmony viable? And do you feel a sense of belonging to your PokemonGo team? Let me know in the comments.


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