Play This: Pokémon Go

In case you’ve been stuck on Mars without Internet connection, there is this new app game called Pokémon Go, and EVERYONE is playing it. How do I know everyone is playing it? Visit a shopping mall. Need more proof? TechCrunch reports that the number of daily users on Pokémon Go has exceeded daily users on Twitter. That is huge.

Now that I’ve played Pokémon Go for a week, I can tell you that the hype is real. It is FUN. There’s never been a game like this: a game that connects people face-to-face in the real world, while playing in avirtual world. We walk around together as a family to catch Pokémon. My son, a walking Pokédex, gets to share his deep knowledge every time we catch one. We’ve helped strangers find Pokémon we just caught. It makes me smile when I spot middle-school girls and boys walking around in groups, out on a hunt.

Am I surprised by the success of Pokémon Go? Yes and no.

Nintendo has succeeded by making us move. Their last mega-hit was the Wii, which introduced controllers that sensed motion. They rolled out the Wii bundled with Wii Sports, where you played virtual golf, tennis, baseball, boxing, and bowling. The controls were intuitive, and you could play alone or with up to four players, bringing a more casual, party-game feel to the console. It was widely adopted by retirement medical homes for both rehabilitation and recreational purposes.

Even Pokémon has had an exercise component with the Pokéwalker, a pedometer that was used in conjunction with the DS games Pokémon Heartgold and Soulsilver.

So, when Nintendo announced a partnership with Niantic, the creators of augmented-reality game Ingress, it seemed like a natural progression for the Pokémon franchise. Catch Pokémon in the wild! Sounds fun. But their promise went way beyond a simple treasure-hunting game.

The Promise

Nintendo released the trailer for Pokémon Go back in September 2015.

Stirring, isn’t it? You will find Pokémon. You will catch Pokémon, alone or with friends and family. You will engage in Pokémon battles with your friends. You will come together with your community to defeat a common foe!

It’s almost utopian.

All that and possibly more in a single app, at your fingertips!

My son and I watched this trailer no less than twenty times on the day it was released. The idea of not just finding and capturing Pokémon, but actually LIVING in the world of Pokémon was exciting. But could they deliver on this lofty promise–the promise of bringing the world of Pokémon to life?

Fast forward ten months. Have they delivered? They have. Oh, have they EVER. The proof is in the streets, with the multitude of people playing this game.

The enormous success of Pokémon Go proves that people are always hungry for the new. All the better if wrapped in a familiar franchise like Pokémon. I’m not surprised by its success, but I am surprised by how enthusiastically people embraced it. It’s easy to see why, though. 

Pokémon Go Will Make You Want To Go Outside

Has an app game ever made you want to go outside for a long walk? If so, let me know. This is definitely a novelty for me. My son and I started in our own neighborhood, and caught two Pokémon soon after. The type of Pokémon you can catch seem to change with time of day and the environment. My son pointed out that “We’ll need to go near a river or lake to find water-type Pokémon.” So there’s a reason to roam farther afield when you want to find a wider variety.

It’s unexpectedly fun to discover a Pokémon. They’re cute little creatures. Catching one brings a simple kind of satisfaction, and it makes me happy.

Pokemon Go - Jigglypuff

It’s a wild Jigglypuff!

There are also many Pokéstops along the way. These are landmarks you may or may not have noticed before. I’ve found some in my own neighborhood that I never noticed before, which is neat. Pokéstops give you Pokéballs (to catch Pokémon) and other items, including eggs. You can incubate eggs to hatch them. How do you hatch them? Girl, you better WALK!

Some people have credited Pokémon Go for helping them with depression, because it makes them WANT to go outside. You don’t have to interact with another person, but you get exercise, which I imagine helps with depression. Exercise helps me with my mood, for sure.

But the most rewarding aspect of Pokémon Go has been the random encounters I’ve had with other players. Last Sunday, my family saw a couple come stumbling up a trail, holding up their smartphones. We knew right away, without even asking, that they were looking for an Evee we just caught, so we pointed them to the exact location.

There are anecdotes all over the Internet about how Pokémon Go players have helped each other. My favorite story is this story on Reddit about how a white guy in his 40’s went Pokémon hunting at 3 a.m., when two sketchy dudes on a park bench called out to him with tips on finding an Onyx. A police officer showed up thinking there was a drug deal going down, so they explained the situation to the police officer, who then downloaded the game on the spot and began playing. You’re thinking, “No, that must be fake.” But then you start playing the game, and it makes sense.

But Pokémon Go isn’t without negatives.

With The Good Comes The Bad

Of course, with a game this popular, problems are sure to arise. You may have read some horror stories about two brothers finding a gun while playing Pokémon Go, or worse, a teenager discovering a dead body in a swamp. These cases are outliers, but safety pitfalls do exist. New York City Police Department has issued a bulletin with common-sense safety tips to avoid them.

Pokemon Go - NYPD Bulletin

(NYPD Bulletin)


I would also recommend starting the game in an area you know well. It’s surprisingly easy to walk into obstacles (fire hydrants, trees, etc) and onto the street while you’re learning the game’s basics.

Let’s also mind our manners. The Arlington National Cemetery and Holocaust Museum have both had to issue statements asking visitors not to play Pokémon Go on their premises. Hopefully, Niantic will take spawn points out of these places soon.

On the other hand, plenty of attractions are actively courting Pokémon trainers. In my area alone, Woodland Park Zoo and Museum of Flight posted photos of Pokémon found by their visitors. Just be mindful of others. I suppose that goes for any kind of smartphone use.

There is also this piece on the Daily Dot about how there are barriers for players with disabilities. This is very important perspective, the kind that any good developers would love to hear. Hopefully, they will take this feedback and address accessibility issues in future updates.

Pokémon Go With The Flow

You might be sick of hearing about how popular this game is. I’m not saying that it’s everyone’s piece of pie, but it’s worth checking out, if only to prepare yourself for what’s to come. Its popularity ensures future direction of app development.

The bottom line for me is that my son, who is not big on walking, doesn’t mind going out for long walks now. And that’s reason enough for me to keep playing.

Learn more

PC Magazine: 11 Hidden Tips For Pokémon Go Fanatics

Business Insider: The CEO behind Pokémon Go explains why it’s become such a phenomenon

Modern Hiker: Pokémon Go Outside


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