SEATTLE — Pokémon Go became the fastest downloaded app in history last year, and its download numbers suggest that 10 percent of the world is familiar with the game. Linked to their GPS smartphones, players can physically scour all corners of the planet hoping to find virtual creatures and “catch ‘em all.” However, the app is more than just the next evolution of the popular gaming series. Updates have drawn attention to sustainable development and reducing global poverty, notably with the help of Richard Curtis.
Richard Curtis is an Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated film director and writer famous for “Love Actually,” “About Time,” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” He is also a devout humanitarian and, witnessing his children’s craze for Pokémon Go, he found inspiration for his next endeavor.
With several world leaders meeting for the World Economic Forum, Curtis turned 17 locations around the venue into virtual PokéStops and named them each after one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). PokéStops are real-world locations that provide players with resources essential for gameplay. He also turned the congressional hall into a Gym, where users meet to train their Pokémon.
The World Economic Forum is an annual summit meeting held in Davos, Switzerland with the purpose of discussing economic strategies and global power dynamics. The 2017 session took place Jan. 17-20 under the theme of “Responsive and Responsible Leadership,” but any leaders opening the app this year would also see a reminder of goals such as “End Poverty,” “Reduce Inequality,” and “Ensure Better Health.”
The promotion received significant attention by celebrities and the press, and consequently, game developers at Niantic plan to release content related to the SDGs to all users worldwide by April. As a result of his work, Curtis is also set to receive the Valentine Davies Humanitarian Award on Feb. 19 from the Writers Guild of America. The award will honor his recent partnership with Niantic as well as his lifelong contributions to the community.
Curtis was the founder of Project Everyone, a co-founder of the Make Poverty History coalition about foreign trade and served as vice chairman for Comic Relief, helping Ethiopia during the 1980s famine. His TV screenplay, “Mary and Martha,” depicted a story about mothers fighting malaria in Africa. Furthermore, he has produced installments of NBC’s annual Red Nose Day, a televised broadcast that has raised more than a billion dollars for children living in poverty around the world.
As a longtime advocate for global poverty reduction, it is clear that Curtis’ work will not stop with Pokémon. Now emboldened with the spirit of Valentine Davies, his work will continue and he will remain an inspiration to so many others.
– Zack Machuga