‘Pokémon Go’ Raids: Inside the Deaf community and its own unique culture

Pokémon Go is at its heart a game about community. Features like gyms and raids are designed to allow people to work together with others playing the game, even when they’re not always perfectly executed. However, this requires a lot of verbal communication to determine whether someone is just staring at their phone or playing the game, which can be tricky if, say, a person happens to be deaf.

With that in mind, members of the Pokémon Go fan community took the time to explain how they communicate with members of the Deaf community within the game.

Pokémon Go Raids: A little sign language goes a long way in helping to welcome the Deaf community

In a Silph Road thread titled “Deaf Pokémon Go Players — Share Your Signs Here,” a deaf British Sign Language user named ellis91 asked fellow players who are deaf to talk about how they communicate with other players, and provided some of their own signs as well:

The Silph Road

Other trainers who are deaf quickly seized on the opportunity to talk about how they communicated with other players in-game.

“I just let others know [that I’m deaf] and ask to watch their screen when it’s time to go into a raid battle,” wrote user frog4all. “I know very little sign but do read lips a lot! I use my cell phone to chat or show a screen. Social cues and body language are critical for me. I love the game but the new ‘need many friends’ raids are forcing me back into real world society (verdict still out on this lol).”

Other players talked more generally about their experience with Pokémon and the Deaf community.

“My sister is deaf and we grew up all signing and watching Pokémon and I think we have signs for all of the first two gens and then some,” explained Ladyvaderr. “We used a lot of animal signs and added the first letters of Pokémon to them.”

Pokémon Go Raids: Other players use forum to stress etiquette when organizing raids with players who are deaf

Even players who didn’t know sign language talked about how they’d managed to bridge the gap between themselves and hearing-impaired players. A user named Laughing_cucumber wrote that using their phone’s text app was invaluable in communicating with deaf players:

The Silph Road

In summary, they wrote, “If you do not know sign language, use any writing app on your phone and dictate into it so you can communicate quickly and clearly with any deaf people you meet while out playing!”

User pogothrowaway151 also used the thread as an opportunity to remind players to be respectful when raiding with players who may be hearing impaired. “I’ve raided with a deaf group of players before and it’s pretty awesome,” they wrote. “That group plays HARD and is fairly up to date on the meta. It’s also nice because, as you can imagine, they make sure everyone is actually ready and up to speed before they start.”

“When I’ve ended up in mixed groups though, it can get frustrating,” they continued. “There’s a lot of, ‘let’s start now, no, now, no back out, let’s split groups’ etc. among hearing players and no one making sure everyone is actually able to follow along with all of this. I end up trying to help everyone stay coordinated with my incredibly limited ASL vocabulary and fingerspelling. I even sometimes say out loud to be as direct as possible. ‘Ok so this is the plan right? We’re going to do x?’ And it gets ignored or talked over.”

Aside from being a heartening display from the community to respect all players of the game, this is also just good advice. Hats off to the community for opening up about this.

More Pokémon Go news, updates, tips and tricks

Raids are here — and not just for ordinary Pokémon. Check out our coverage of the legendaries now in-game, Lugia and Articuno. Find out what went wrong at the Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago while you wait for the debut of the European Safari Zones in August and September. Finally, check out some reporting on the issues plaguing rural players a year after launch, how the game created a space for black female gamers and how Pokémon Go can continue to build its community.