Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ve undoubtedly been hearing a lot about the sudden smash hit phenomena that is the mobile app, Pokémon Go. If you’re an adult over the age of say, 35, you also may not have grown up in the Pokémon era of childhood (I caught the tail end of it myself) and have little familiarity with the little animal-like creatures of the game. You may be wondering, “what on Earth is the big deal about this app?” and, I’ve even seen some (fairly judgy *cough* *cough*) memes circulating in reference to Pokémon Go not being an app for anyone with actual adult responsibilities like, you know, jobs.
In an effort to shed a little light on the insanity of the globe-spanning instant sensation, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain to you the reasons why you actually should care about Pokémon Go, and provide you with the info you need to know to benefit from the craze surrounding it.
What exactly is Pokémon Go, and how does it actually work? Why do people care so much, and why is it fun?
Pokémon Go is the first major roll-out of a type of game called “augmented reality” (aka AR). AR games combine elements from the real-life world that surrounds you, with elements from a game to create a blended, new augmented reality. Using your phone or mobile devices camera, GPS and motion sensing capabilities, Pokémon Go places your character (a Pokémon “trainer”) on a map of the actual physical area you are in (in real life) and as you walk or travel about, Pokémon characters show up on your map.
By tapping on a character, your screen changes and what you see on the screen will be that Pokémon, looking as though it is right in front of you, surrounded by the environment you are actually in. Your objective is to “capture” the Pokémon using a Pokéball, which is accomplished with a flick of the finger across your touch-screen, throwing your ball to bounce off the creature, causing it to open up and suck the creature inside. This creature then becomes part of your collection of Pokémon, that you can “train” (teach battle and defense moves to, give additional power to, grow into a bigger version of itself, etc.) and there are 150 different Pokémon in the game to spot and collect.
Some Pokémon are harder to capture than others, and it takes a few throws to capture them in a Pokéball. Sometimes they pop back out if they are particularly strong, and you have to try again. But, these more powerful Pokémon are also more prestigious to have on your team, so it makes it exciting to catch them.
Your supply of Pokéballs is not unlimited (though you start with some from the get go) and you can collect more by going to Pokéstops. Pokéstops look like a blue cube on a pole located at real-life landmarks. You can obtain Pokéballs and other helpful Pokémon catching and training items by simply standing near a Pokéstop landmark and swiping your finger across the screen to spin the image on the screen. Items will pop out and become part of your inventory, which your character carries in his/her backpack.
If you knew nothing else about Pokémon, and didn’t care to dive too much into further details of the game, simply wandering around on this scavenger hunt for virtual creatures, enjoying the element of surprise when you discover one in your path, and find new Pokéstops at favorite local landmarks is fun. It’s like playing hide and seek, yet, it doesn’t require you to have a group of friends available to partake. Whether you’ve ever played an old-school Pokémon game or any video game for that matter in the past or not, the controls of this game are so simple and the treasure hunting nature of the game so unexpectedly delightful, that almost anyone could enjoy playing at their leisure.
For those who genuinely enjoy video games, want to enjoy a greater challenge or those who love Pokémon games already, there are many other challenges to take on in the game, should you choose to work towards progressing as a Pokémon trainer, and you can find an awesome explanation of how to play the full game in detail here.
You’re a parent. Your kids want to play this game/are playing this. Here’s what’s in it for you:
First, I’ve got to say this is one of those things where if you haven’t tried it for yourself, it can be a little tough to understand why it’s fun. For the first 4 days, my husband and son played, but I wasn’t interested. I play video games at times, but typically only with my husband and son, because it’s something they enjoy. If I have free time and I’m alone, it’s not something I’m likely to feel drawn toward. However, I noticed that my husband started going on walks in the evening and walks with my son, saying “we have to walk to get more Pokémon and hatch out eggs!” (Some Pokestops give you “eggs” as an item. These eggs incubate for a set distance, either 2k, 5k or 10k, and hatch into a Pokémon. The only way to hatch them is to walk for that distance while playing the game!) My guys were motivated to exercise by a game, and spending time outdoors, together… pretty cool!
On the 5th day, I was headed outside for a walk with my son, and seeing as it can be challenging to find shared interests with a 9-year-old boy, I thought, “Hey, why not just download the game and see if it’s fun. Maybe it’s something we can do together.” So, I downloaded it and started a game. Within a few moments, my first Pokemon appeared, and my son excitedly helped me learn how to capture it, and afterwards, he was so excited for me and acting very proud of his “cool mom”. It’s pretty rare that I’m called “cool mom” outright, so not going to lie – this was a pretty simple, yet rewarding experience.
Since then, we’ve spent a lot of time together, all three of us, or in pairs, out walking and hunting Pokémon together. We’ve gotten a lot of exercise, and enjoyed a leisure activity that’s genuinely (and surprisingly) entertaining for all three of us. We’ve even driven around together to different parts of town, explored Downtown monuments, and talked about historical and important buildings looking for Pokéstops. My son saw Courthouse Park, the Water Tower, my husband’s old office, Arte Americas museum, and several murals and statues that were completely new to him.
But wait, you’ve heard of bad things happening to kids playing this game in the news. Are people getting their phones stolen for playing? Getting hit by cars? (etc. etc.)
Have you ever heard of the Darwin awards? Darwin awards are made up awards, compiled online, in “honor” of those who end up meeting their own untimely deaths or injury due to their own really stupid choices. Pokémon Go being dangerous in itself is completely untrue. The danger comes into play when people do stupid things while distracted by playing the game/being on their device. Could someone playing Pokémon Go cause a car accident not paying attention to the road and driving? Yes. However, the same accident could be caused by texting, making a call, putting on lipstick, etc. Distracted driving is dangerous and shouldn’t be done. Could someone get robbed of their phone/money while out hunting Pokémon in a bad area, alone, at night? Yes. Could this happen to anyone walking around alone at night in a bad area? Yup! The key here is to not do stupid things that are always stupid, whether you are playing Pokémon Go or not.
Ok, you’ve read about it, you’re still not sure this is something you want to do. Why you should appreciate it anyway:
Believe it or not, Pokémon Go is actually having a positive effect on cities in a number of ways, and many businesses and public agencies are already beginning to see the potential ways app usage could further be of benefit to their particular fields.
In order to hunt down the different types of Pokémon that exist, players must leave their own neighborhood and explore new places. Different types of Pokémon live in different neighborhoods, cities, states, countries, habitats. So, the more a player explores, the more different types of Pokémon they can acquire. City planners are ecstatic, seeing crowds of people in formerly quiet and minimally traversed areas, hunting Pokémon.
Business owners are benefiting from increased foot traffic and revenue from new customers who might not otherwise have come to their area. In fact, a particular item in the game called a “lure module” can be used at any Pokéstop to attract more Pokémon than usual to that geographic area. These lures appear on the map for everyone, thus driving people to go to that particular place. Some businesses are even playing the app themselves to place lures near their stores or offering discounts to players who place a lure nearby.
Last week, my family and I were walking in the later evening in the Pavilion West shopping center on Bullard and West. Typically, that shopping center would have been nearly empty at 9:30 on a Thursday night, but on this particular night, someone had placed a lure in front of High Sierra Grill and another at a fountain in the opposite corner of the shopping center. We encountered more than 10 different groups of people (many of which were very friendly, and stopped to say hello and share tips with us!) on foot or in their cars, coming specifically to hang out and search for Pokémon. Had G’s Creamery been open (new place, coming soon!), no doubt they would have sold a lot of ice cream that night! (P.S. there is a vacant store front that used to be a sandwich shop in this shopping center – and there are two Pokéstops nearby… might be a great opportunity for a new restaurant owner, hint hint!)
Some businesses, like Piazza del Pane on Palm and Nees are proudly proclaiming their status as a Pokéstop, displaying a sign that says, “Yes, we are a Pokéstop!” and offering a discount to players inside.
In addition to generating business, increased foot traffic in previously under-utilized areas can also help improve the use of public areas. Check out this tweet from local reporter, Tommy Tran, in which he shows a video clip of a good size crowd of people Pokémon hunting in Court House Park at 8pm – a location typically desolate at that time.
— Tommy Tran (@TommyTranTV) July 15, 2016
Other potential uses for the societal patterns created by the game include city transportation departments creating a system for players to report potholes they discover while playing. An awesome article from Curbed.com shares more from city leaders, planners and game adopters on the benefits of the game, including this quote. “I learned more about Los Angeles street art than I had in the last 20 years,” says Eric Spiegelman, president of LA’s Taxicab Commission. “You think you know a city backwards and forwards, and then a stupid little game based on a toy brand you were too old for when it came out in the 90s comes along and says, ‘Here are 30 things you didn’t know about on this one street.’” Beyond that, some national parks and city centers are even setting up guided Pokémon Hikes in which a tour is lead through a specific area, players hunt Pokémon, and get a dose of area history from their guides along the way. An example of a highly successful planned community Pokémon event took place just this last week in the Tower District – and over 1,000 people showed up!
Ok, you’re coming around to the idea a bit. You’re still a little skeptical, and you may not download it yourself, but you’re fine with others playing. Maybe…
I’ve got one final point to make. As an actual adult, with a lot required of me each day, and living in a time in which there is a lot of sadness, violence and really ugly things happening in our country, I have to say I really welcome something that’s light, fun and brings strangers together to exercise, explore their cities and share a common interest. It’s rather refreshing.
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