Could Pokémon Go Open the Doors for More Girls in Gaming?

The interactive monster app is taking the world by storm—and some think it could act as a gateway game for women.

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Jul 11 2016, 7:45pm

Two days after Nintendo and Nianti Labs released Pokémon GO—a mobile game for iPhones and Androids that allows users to catch virtual Pokémon out in the real world—it was already installed on more US Android phones than the popular dating app Tinder, adding a reported $9 billion worth of market value to the company.

Thanks to the longstanding popularity of the Pokémon franchise, which came out in the 90s and now spans video games, trading cards, and animated TV shows, Pokémon GO is now the most downloaded free app on iTunes and the Google Play Store.

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In case you have inexplicably not yet become familiar with the app, the concept is simple: Pokémon GO uses the phone's GPS and clock to determine where a user is in the game. He or she walks around searching for Pokémon, which appear on the phone's screen using augmented reality; the app launches the phone's camera to reveal the Pokémon overlaid on a view of the user's surroundings. From there, the user flicks a red and white ball, called a Pokéball, to capture monsters to add to his or her collection.

Kristen Brison, 26, is a gamer who goes by the handle CuddleofDeath and is known for her YouTube videos centered on Pokémon. She tells Broadly the mobile game has potential to draw more women into gaming.

"I think it's something easy that anyone can pick up and get into, even if you had never seen a Pokémon before," she says. "If you look at the character design, most of them are so cute. And then a lot of them can evolve into someone more menacing or cool, so it can really appeal to a wide range of audience."

According to statistics compiled by game distributor Big Fish Games, 48 percent of women played games in 2015.

One feature of Pokémon GO Brison points to as an indicator of its female-friendliness is the ability to customize a user's avatar. Character customization, including gender, skin tone, and eye color, is common in today's games, but the original, generation one Pokémon games didn't have that option. "Luckily, we have that now," she says. "You can actually choose to be a female in the game and everything to represent yourself. I know the customization isn't in-depth but it's definitely something, and I think that's a step in the right direction."

According to market research, more than 60 percent of those who have downloaded the app in the US are using it daily. Those people may be open to exploring other gaming options, Brison says, such Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, which will be released later this year for the Nintendo 3DS.