Go, Pokémon Go!

I am a mature, productive adult and I love Pokémon Go.

I said it, and I’m not ashamed, and neither are the majority of my friends. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy being outside and playing a game on your phone at the same time. There’s no reason you can’t socialize and play a game on your phone at the same time. There’s no reason you can’t be productive at work and play a game on your phone during your breaks or when you’re not at work. There’s no reason you can’t be in tune with current events and also enjoying a fun diversion a few times a day. There’s no reason you can’t be an adult and really, genuinely enjoy a game based on characters that were originally intended for children. I am so tired of all the negative, even sometimes hateful things I keep hearing about the game and the people who are playing it. If you don’t want to play Pokémon Go, that’s perfectly fine. My opinion of you as a person has nothing to do with whether or not you play the game, but it does have a lot to do with whether or not you try to demean or shame others for enjoying something that you don’t.

That being said, there are definitely some things that Pokémon Go players need to consider so they can have fun and be respectful and safe at the same time. It’s not okay to trespass so you can catch a Pokémon. If you’re hunting somewhere like a cemetery or memorial site, be extra cautious about where you walk and how noisy you are so as not to disturb other visitors or damage grave markers and monuments. Stay aware of your surroundings (including other people — you don’t want to disturb others, nor do you want to be mugged or something because you were distracted), remember to look both ways when crossing a street, don’t hunt in dangerous places such as highways, make sure you’re visible if it’s dark outside, and don’t go hunting alone after dark or in areas you’re unfamiliar with. I also read something on Facebook today cautioning parents of children who play to remind their kids that it’s not okay to go off with a strange adult in the name of Pokémon hunting, and also reminding adult players not to get so innocently excited about tracking a particular creature that they encourage a kid they don’t know to go off somewhere with them. The author of the original post saw that nearly happen at a grocery store; the adult realized what he had almost done and was very apologetic, and the parent was reasonable about the situation, but it could have gone a very different way.

THAT being said, though, the positive social interaction (not social media interaction, but actual physical interaction) among strangers that Pokémon Go has sparked is amazing. The weekend right after the game came out, I spoke to so many people whom I normally wouldn’t have because we were all out playing, tracking creatures together, looking for Pokéstops, and good-naturedly trash-talking the opposing teams (Mystic 4 lyfe!). Obviously, Pokémon Go is also causing a lot of people to get a lot more exercise than they would have gotten otherwise, since you can’t do much playing without getting up and walking around. Local businesses are getting a lot more foot traffic, people are volunteering to walk shelter dogs, and apps like Charity Miles are getting plenty of downloads. I’ve read about autistic children interacting better with others while they play, and one of my best friends has seen her depression levels decrease dramatically because she’s getting exercise, soaking up sunlight, and participating in a free activity she and her husband can do together.

Maybe the most amazing thing about Pokémon Go is that I’m actually playing it. To say I’ve never really been into gaming is an understatement. My sister and I played some computer games when we were younger, but we tended to prefer the art studio-type games, and we never really asked for video games, so we never got any. Every time I’ve had the chance to play video games, I’ve gotten frustrated because I’m not very good because I never play so I never get better so I get frustrated because I’m not very good… It’s definitely a self-fulfilling prophecy. I played a little Candy Crush on Facebook, mostly for procrastination purposes in college, but I’ve never had any games on my phone. (This baffles my young friends who like to play with my phone at Thursday Night Dinner.) When I first heard about Pokémon Go, I didn’t think I would download it, but my boyfriend and several of our friends were playing and were going to go on a neighborhood walk, and I wanted to go on the walk too and didn’t want to feel left out. It turns out that there’s really very little skill involved, I feel great when I take long walks outside (even if it’s really hot and humid), and I’m learning a lot about Pokémon!

I remember my peers getting into Pokémon when I was in third grade, and then everyone was OBSESSED the year I was in fourth grade, and then it kind of died out. My sister was very into it, and she had a bunch of cards and watched the cartoon on Saturday mornings, and I guess I probably started to watch the show with her and got into it a little bit, right at the end of the trend. (I missed the boat the same way with the Spice Girl craze. I was kind of a lame elementary schooler, I guess.) I had one pack of cards that I definitely don’t have anymore (sad, because I had a Squirtle, and he’s my favorite!), and there were probably 12-15 Pokémon for which I could correctly associate name with image. No one that I knew after that was into Pokémon except for the occasional nostalgic moment, until I started hanging out with major nerds all the time (basically when I got into the larger Harry Potter fandom in college). Suddenly I had friends who would have conversations about Snorlaxes and Weedles and how they evolved and the video games that had come out every few years, and I couldn’t participate in any of that. It was frustrating. Now, though, after just a few weeks, I know a lot of new Pokémon. I’m learning who evolves into whom, and I understand the current game so I can talk intelligently about Stardust and Pidgey Candy. I have added a whole new fandom to my collection, and I love when that happens!

It’ll be really interesting to see how Pokémon Go develops over time, because I’m pretty sure this craze is here to stay for quite a while. Since only the original generation of Pokémon are available the way the game is currently designed, players will eventually hit a point where they’ve caught everything that can be caught. I agree with the people who are speculating that the game developers will release the later generations of Pokémon for capture over time. I also have an idea for further enhancement that I think would be pretty cool: actual, physical Pokémon gyms, where you could go through obstacle courses and such, catching Pokémon. This would support the exercise aspect of the game and be something that users could pay for as frequently or infrequently as they wanted, allowing the basic app to stay free. If you want to hit the Pokémon gym every day after work, great! If you only go once every few months, that’s great too! Basically, I see it like MagiQuest that you can go and still play outside the official facility, albeit in a slightly different way. (If any game developers happen to be reading this and like my idea, there’s a “Contact” page where you can hit me up. Haha.)

What a time to be alive. Three weeks ago, I would never have imagined I would be writing about Pokémon at all, let alone having this much to say about it! But now I want to be the very best, like no one ever was…just like everyone else. Happy Pokémon hunting, folks! Go, Pokémon Go!

~Madeline

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