Even for those who haven’t downloaded the game, Pokemon Go has taken over the world. People are officially playing it more than they use Tinder, and trainers vying to be The Very Best are so dedicated that they try to catch pocket monsters at work, war, and other inappropriate places. Pokemon Go has created a national and cultural moment unlike any other, so it was only a matter of time before it influenced our contentious election season. When it comes to potential voters who play Pokemon Go, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is ready to catch ‘em all.
At a Virginia campaign event on Thursday, Clinton said “I don’t know who created Pokemon Go but I’m trying to figure out how we get them to Pokemon Go to the polls!!” But in reality, her campaign has already figured it out.
For non-trainers like me: Pokemon Go is an app and augmented reality game that mixes IRL and digital elements. Using your phone’s GPS and clock, the game “places” Pokemon in your vicinity to find and capture. Pokestops and Gyms are where trainers can obtain items (like more Pokeballs with which to imprison Pokemon), and train and fight their Pokemon. They’re also where you might find the Clinton campaign.
Across the country, Clinton voters, volunteers, and staffers are setting up at Pokestops and Gyms to meet trainers and help them get registered to vote. This brilliant engagement method has been popping up on social media with hashtags like #PokemonGoHub, and is especially important in swing states like Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida.
Clinton’s Ohio organizing director Jennifer Friedmann tweeted that the Pokemon Go hubs are the best thing to ever happen to voter registration:
A Clinton campaign spokesperson explained that Pokemon Go and the election are a natural fit: Hillary’s staffers are diverse and plugged into today’s trends, so their everyday interests inform voter engagement and recruitment. “Organizers in particular tend to skew pretty young … the people out there on the ground are millennials themselves," she told Complex.
Pokemon Go is actually the perfect platform to inspire change—the object of the game is literally to move players into action. Clinton’s campaign spokesperson explained that on-the-ground volunteers typically look for places with a lot of people to approach, like festivals, parades, and other outdoor community events. Pokemon Go is so popular that it’s created a new type of community event, turning public places into prime real estate for campaigns.
“All you have to do is log into the game yourself, look at where those locations are, [and] there’s a pretty good chance that there will be like a group of people there who are hanging around waiting to reload on Pokeballs," she explained. Volunteers have smartly used Pokemon Go gatherings to approach players and ask if they're registered to vote. If they're interested in registering, organizers can help them do so on the spot.
This simple approach has already seen success in crucial swing states:
Earlier this week, a Quinnipiac poll of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Iowa showed close races, with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump leading or tied with Clinton. But an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll published on Friday found that Clinton leads presumptive Trump in four crucial swing states: Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.
More and more young or young-at-heart organizers are creating Pokemon Go-related Clinton campaign events in swing states to encourage voter registration. You can register, learn about Clinton's platforms, catch Pokemon, and battle other trainers in Colorado, Ohio, and more.
As for the other team? Trump's social media director made it clear with a tweet that the billionaire's campaign hasn't taken Pokemon Go's message of friendship to heart: