Filmmaker Insights: Capturing the Pokémon GO Craze in Singapore

Student filmmaker Ng Kai Yuan talks about documenting the latest mobile gaming phenomenon to hit the city-state in his stunning time-lapse video.
Ever since Pokémon GO was launched in Singapore on 6 August 2016, it has been virtually impossible to walk down the city streets without seeing large gatherings of people with their heads down, lost in the abyss of their mobile phone screens.

While many embrace the mobile game as harmless fun that arguably promotes socialisation, city exploration and lots of walking, others are condemning it as a stupefying activity that’s breeding a nation of walking zombies.

Intrigued, Ng Kai Yuan – a third-year Mass Communication student from the NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information – decided to do a social commentary on this cultural phenomenon as part of a photojournalism assignment. Here, the 23-year-old talks about his time-lapse video that captures the Pokémon GO craze in an unsettling yet stunning way.

What motivated you to do a social commentary on Pokémon GO?

This video was actually done for a school assignment; I had to do a story on Pokémon GO for an advanced photojournalism class. After discussing the various approaches to the story with my lecturer, I decided to attempt a landscape piece because I was inspired by what (local photographer) Darren Soh did for Political Landscape.

The idea was to show the crazy crowds playing Pokémon GO at different places in Singapore. I think this is the first time that we’ve seen anything like this. When else have we ever got to see such huge gatherings of people here?
What made the time-lapse the best approach to capturing the Pokémon GO craze in Singapore?

What struck me the most about this whole Pokémon GO craze is the crazy number of people playing the game; but, apart from that, I also felt that it was important to show how the landscapes where these players congregate change over a period of time.

For example, you get to see Hougang transitioning from night to day at the end of the video – shooting that took about seven hours! In order to show the transformation of the landscape, I had to compress time. Hence, the time-lapse was the best way to tell the story.