Game Theory: Why Team Mystic DOMINATES Pokemon GO


Rumor has it
there’s been video circulating around online
that there’s this new super-rare Pokemon out
that has proven impossible to catch.
But you know me, impossible is not
a word that I understand,
so we’re gonna find this thing,
and stick him in our balls.
Rock!
Rock!
The Rock? Wha— Some sort of weird promotional thing
that Nintendo’s doing, well, okay, cool!
Gotta catch ’em all!
Bring it on, Rock!
[Pokeball shakes]
[Rock escapes]
[Grunt]
I could do this all day, you little Weedle-catching bit—
Okay, well suck on this Great Ball!
[Pokeball falls]
Got it!
Are you kidding me!?
Maybe you should lay off the candy, “FatPat”,
you’re starting to look like a Jigglypuff!
But hey, that’s just my theory.
Man…Pokerock is a dick.
[Game Theory Theme Plays]
Hello, internet!
Welcome to Game Theory, where that opening
was part of a collaboration I did with Dwayne
“The Rock” Johnson.
Yeah, the Fast and Furious guy.
The video is “Why I gave The Rock Pokemon
Go.”
Just kidding…I gave him Undertale.
Just kidding again–man you guys take this
too seriously.
I didn’t give The Rock any sort of video games, okay?
But I will say this was a super-cool opportunity,
since it’s not every day you get to tell
the world’s highest earning actor to suck
on your Great Balls, so even though I didn’t
catch him, I’d call it a win.
If you want to check out the whole video I
did with him, click right here.
But the fact that I got to do a collaboration
with a former wrestler turned Scorpion King
about a POKEMON game just goes to show how
big Pokemon GO actually is.
And as if you needed more proof, just a few days
after the game’s release, it basically doubled
the value of Nintendo — the WHOLE company.
In a week, it became the biggest mobile game
EVER — CRUSHING Candy Crush.
And literally everyone is checking it out–all genders, every age group.
I mean, when my cellphone wielding grandma
is asking me to breed with her Female Nidoran,
I think two things: First, this game is HUGE and
second, seriously?
You can’t find a Male Nidoran, grandma?
They’re literally like every five steps.
Oh, and let’s add to the list, 3) I never
want to think about breeding and my grandparents
in the same sentence ever again.
But despite the ENORMOUS number of people playing
this game coming from all walks of life,
one trend has already started to emerge: the
domination of Team Mystic.
And that’s not me showing favoritism; It’s
a proven fact.
For those of you who don’t know, or live
in Brazil (where the game isn’t released yet) and have to rely on the Olympics
to entertain you instead, once a player reaches
level 5, they must first pick a team: Mystic,
Valor, or Instinct.
This in turn dictates your team color, your team leader, and which team you battle for at gyms.
But most importantly, once you’ve picked your allegiance, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to switch teams.
So it’s a PERMANENT move in the game.
And yet, despite presenting three evenly-matched
teams to the player,
43% of total players of Pokemon GO
are currently Team Mystic.
That’s nearly HALF, despite there being three options.
It’s a MASSIVE difference as Valor only
has 32% of players and Instinct is far behind
with only 25%.
Which begs the question of WHY?
How could one team dominate the choice so
heavily?
Well, what’s really happening here is a collision of
personality, competition, and social psychology.
In other words: a whole lotta SCIENCE.
And when you boil it down,
there are actually three key reasons
why Team Mystic is the Pokemon GO team of choice,
and no, it’s not just a #TeamMystic Thing.
So let’s pick apart the minds of Poketrainers
across the globe to get to the root of Mystic’s
magical domination of the field.
Every day, the stuff we see around us
influences the way we think,
usually way more than we even realize.
Ads, marketing, even regular news articles you read take advantage of the way your brain works.
And I’m here to tell you that Pokemon
Go teams are no exception!
We’re going to get into plenty of psychology
about the teams themselves, but before we
even get into that, I’m going to tell you
that even the way the game’s marketing presents
the teams, as well as the game’s interface,
makes you predisposed to choosing team Mystic.
Look at this layout of the teams.
And this one.
And this one.
Which team do you notice first
when you look at all these images?
Well, if you’re like the vast majority of the
population, you notice the one in the middle.
This is called the Center Stage Effect and it’s one of the most common marketing tools out there.
In a display case, you’re more likely to
look at and consider the object in the middle,
and not the ones on the ends.
It’s also known as the “Goldilocks effect”
You know, after “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”,
[High Voice] “This porridge is too hot, this porridge is too cold”,
“This porridge is juuuuust right.”
[Normal Voice] Anyway, The Goldilocks Effect says that most people choose the middle option.
If everything seems relatively equal across all of them–
–like people don’t get a special prize for choosing one–
–well then, they’ll choose the
one that’s visually in the middle.
That’s why if you have the choice to go
inside the same building through one of three doors,
well, you’re most likely choose the middle one.
If all three lanes are empty on the highway, and none are considered a “fast lane” or “carpool lane”,
well, people choose the middle lane.
And if all three bathroom stalls are clean, people
will choose the middle option to poop…unless
of course there’s someone in that first stall, in
which case you can BET
I am going to the COMPLETELY
opposite side of that room—
Not being that creepy guy who chooses the stall right next to the other guy
who happens to be in there, give me space, okay?
Pooping is NOT a group activity.
Speaking of: in high school, the group of guys in my show choir would have this thing
where they would all run to the bathroom together and have a “Poop Party”
I never did it, I was very confused.
Sorry, back to Pokemon…just very shy about my stall ethic, okay?
[Clears Throat]
Anyway, if you’re a huge Pokemon fan or you
already know things about these teams,
well then, the choice isn’t so equal anymore.
For instance, if you have a friend on Team
Valor, you might be tempted to also choose Team Valor
to play with that person; it’s no longer
a neutral choice.
But for those of us with no friends, still
walking around at level 5 not realizing that
we just have 75 Bellsprouts in our to our name,
well, then, we’re just going to choose based on whatever’s in front of us.
And what’s in front of us at the moment
of choice, is Team Mystic.
Now, for those of you jumping onto the Pokemon Go
train a couple weeks in,
well, there’s another factor, as well:
everyone wanting to be on the winning team.
Think about it: This is one of the few games
most of us have played in recent memory where
you actually have to occasionally interact
with real people in the real world.
It’s horrifying.
And for those of us who are used to the anonymity
of the internet where we can celebrate our
victories by dancing around our basements
in our underwear–admit it, you do it, too
–we don’t want to face the embarrassment of a loss,
especially when playing a game in the REAL WORLD.
No, now when we’re going to choose a team, there’s a whole lot more at stake, BUT we have an advantage:
we already know what the most popular choice is,
because everyone else has been talking about it. We know what team gets more wins,
controls more gyms, and potentially has the
best shot at special perks, because
it’s the team with the MOST PEOPLE.
You guessed it: it’s Team Mystic.
This is called the Bandwagon Effect, and is
a very real psychological phenomenon that
says people are more likely to adopt a belief
or start doing something if they already think
it has momentum. It’s the reason why Yelp reviews exist.
As human beings, we get information from the
people around us – we go with the majority
based on instinct.
No, not Team Instinct, just actual instinct.
So think of a really terrible example from history.
One of the most horrific moments in history,
where people joined a bandwagon, and got carried away…you guessed it:
Justin Bieber.
As more and more people thought he was good, the easier and easier it became
to overcome the critics, despite everyone’s eardrums bleeding.
And Justin Bieber goes to show you how dangerous
bandwagoning can be.
You see it on YouTube all the time where for
a while it becomes “cool” to hate someone,
or some channel. Or bad mouth some kind video or a game.
With Pokemon Go, people see that it’s easy to be in the in-crowd if they choose Team Mystic
so they’re more likely to choose it, on top of it already being reinforced by seeing it
front and center quite literally all the time.
But it’s not all about how the teams are
presented to you on the screen,
they’re also all associated with a color.
Mystic is blue, Valor is red,
and Instinct is yellow.
And last week, to help write this episode, I surveyed you Loyal Theorists, and over 30,000 of you responded.
One thing that was immediately interesting about your
answers was that 23%, or about 7,000 total,
chose your Pokemon GO team based purely on the color—that’s A LOT of people, over a fifth.
So, then why would the Blue Mystic team have
the advantage here?
Well, first, because blue is the world’s
most popular color.
Across multiple tests, across nearly all countries,
and across both male and female.
Second favorite — either red or green depending
on the country.
And MUCH further down the list, is Yellow.
And remember, that’s exactly how our three
teams line up: First, Mystic Blue, then Valor
Red, then Instinct Yellow.
Here in the United States, this color battle
takes on even more meaning since it’s an
election year with one political party being
associated with Red and the other Blue.
And yet, in an ironic twist, regardless of
whether a person is a blue Democrat or a red Republican,
on the whole, blue is still the preferred color.
But why?
Well, scientists believe it has a lot to do
with the calming emotions blue tones evoke.
It’s the color of the sky on a sunny day
and of a calm body of water.
Red, on the other hand, is often the color of anger, rage, or passion — much more intense emotions.
It’s an active color.
And this held true with the data you guys sent in.
As part of the quiz, we asked you to submit
your personality types based on the Myers-Briggs
assessment which gives you letters based on
your personality.
The first of those letters is giving you either an E or an I. E for extroverted or an outgoing people-person
versus I for introverted or someone who prefers
being in smaller, quieter groups.
And true to form, Valor, with its active,
aggressive red, had the highest percentage of extroverts
It’s also worth mentioning that about a
year ago, I did an episode all about color theory
and about how different colors affect your
performance in certain games,
With science proving that red teams do better in high-action, FPS-style games, and blue teams doing better
with strategy-based games like chess and MOBAs.
Red’s association with excitement
and aggression play into your advantage
if you’re in a shoot-em-up style game
that requires taking big risks.
Blue, meanwhile, is at an advantage whenever
there’s a slower-paced game that requires more strategy and trustworthiness.
Now with that in mind, look at Pokemon, it’s immediately clear that this isn’t a run-and-gun game.
It’s a walking game, and a game you play over the course of weeks, where you strategically collect your
Pokemon, breed them, team up with other players—basically, you’re playing the long game.
To catch ’em all, or be the best, like no one ever was.
So where does all this leave yellow?
Well, yellow is rarely associated with any
competitive qualities –it’s about optimism–
Happiness, which helps explain why it’s
a last choice based on color theory.
Psychologically, you don’t get any advantage
in the game, and looking outside of Pokemon,
yellow doesn’t have a big strategic position
as a color in general.
It’s on the fewest national flags
and rarely appears on sports jerseys.
You can even see these color theories at work in brands that choose these particular colors.
The Nintendo red conveys that their games
are about excitement and immediate action.
Think about the platformers like Mario, or the wide-open adventures of Zelda.
Then look at Blizzard’s cool blue, which conveys that their games ARE about strategy
and building up strength over the long-game.
Blue is also one of the key colors in Ikea,
incentivizing customers to calmly walk around the store,
taking their time, getting lost in the rooms, upon rooms, upon rooms of items.
Seriously, I am always getting lost in Ikea.
Yellow is the other color of Ikea, which conveys a sense of, I guess optimism
that you’ll ever be able to turn these 68 pegs and
composite boards into a night stand.
Or…was it meant to be a coat rack?
But all of that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If global trends in color psychology, group
bandwagoning, and user interfaces don’t
have you convinced as to why Team Mystic is
currently crushing the leaderboards, then
I can do you one better.
I can identify your team simply by knowing
a little bit about your personality.
I mentioned this before, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again right here.
When we asked you to fill out a form about
your Poke-team preference, 30,000 of you responded!
Seriously, psychologists work for a YEAR to
get 1,000 people to fill out a survey, so
having 30,000 people take a poll would have
them more excited than us catching a Gyrados,
so thank you guys so much for that.
And the data you sent in showed the third
reason why Team Mystic is crushing it on the Leaderboards,
which means, I owe you some results…
next time.
I’m gonna dig deep with you guys on this stuff, so I’m dedicating the whole next episode
to YOU. (And the individual teams you identify with)
Cue the groans about it being another two-part episode,
I know…I know.
But hey, we need time to edit this stuff — these episodes take a really long time to write and edit..
So join me next week, pinky swear, when we
get to the bottom of our little Pokemon GO
psychology experiment and show you what
team choice means about you as a person.
‘Cause who doesn’t love an episode talking
all about themselves?
It’s an episode that you’re definitely gonna want to catch.
So, to make sure that you’re notified, capture that “Subscribe” button you see right there on the screen
Go ahead, catch it. Throw that Pokeball at it!
Get it! Get it!
And, if you didn’t have a
chance to fill out the survey before,
now’s your chance to help out before the next episode.
Choose which of the three teams is your favorite:
Mystic, Valor, or Instinct.
Notice that I didn’t put Mystic in the middle.
Click on one to choose, and we’ll talk about these results, as well as the ones we gathered earlier
in the next episode. So this is it! Your chance to help out Game Theory. Thank you guys so much!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have a Hitmonlee to catch. I’ll see you guys next week.
And in the meantime, remember, that’s just a theory.
A Game Theory!
Thanks for watching!
Get it to shake three times, UNH!

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