When a thread of Burning Man-bound Pokemon Go players worried about surviving gameless during the weeklong, internet-challenged event in Nevada’s remote Black Rock Desert hit Reddit this summer, two Denver burners came to the rescue.
“We thought, ‘We like the game; let’s adapt it,” says Jacki Bailey, who devised the alternative with Eric Lake and organized it through their 16-member camp, Lazer Brigade.
Their revised analog version of the game—dubbed BurningMon Go
—encouraged burners to separate from their phones and engage Burning Man’s ethos of inclusion and interaction. Bailey, Lake, and their campmates placed plastic Pokemon characters in 63 participating camps and one art sculpture around the 70,000-member Black Rock City.
Players were given maps and went in search of the creatures, marking their whereabouts on cards, and told to return to Lazer Brigade for a prize—a small sample of the camp’s traditional homemade hot sauce.
“We encouraged everyone to interact with the camps that they went to; not just go and write down the BurningMon locations and then leave,” says Bailey, an aesthetician and six-time burner. “But instead, get a drink talk, talk to the people in those camps, and see what they had to offer.”
“Some of the figurines were hard to find, so you’d have to ask someone,” adds Lake, a first-time burner who works in software customer support. “It’s very much like a scavenger hunt, where you can discover smaller camps you might have otherwise missed.”
Pokemon fever also prompted pranks to rope in more gullible attendees, like the Snarkle Ponies announcing a Pokemon Go competition
and photographer Andrew Miller investigating a rumor heralding a playa appearance of the rare Pokemon creature MewTwo.
But Lazer Brigade’s solution was genuinely embracing. “When we posted for other camps to participate, we thought we’d get five camps and we got 60,” says Bailey.
“Burning Man can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to think, ‘Where do I go? What do I do now?’” she adds. “It’s a way to give people a sense of purpose to their day and help them find some awesome places and people on the way.”