Summer is a time for crazy things to do. Two years ago many of us were dumping buckets of ice over our heads for ALS. This summer it will be less altruistic but still sort of silly. Ten days ago the mobile phone game Pokemon GO was released in the US. Since then it has become a phenomenon with more daily users than Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. It already has more players than Candy Crush Saga. This has become an interesting story of new technology sparking good exercise habits and socialization with new people.
The basics of the game is one you download onto your smartphone. When you open the app the phone’s GPS places you on a map of wherever you are. All of the streets you are familiar with are there. What are also there hidden all over are “pocket monsters” or pokemon for short. Your job as a trainer is to “catch ‘em all”. You have an index which keeps track of which ones you have seen. As you walk around you find blue cubes floating that as you come near to them become pokestops. These are stations where you receive the in-game resources you need to catch pokemon. Once you have some pokemon to train you can go to other sites called gyms and battle with other players. Those are the basics here is what is different.
Pokemon GO is what is called an augmented reality game. That means the game itself is overlaid on top of your real life. To play it you have to go outside and walk around. Unlike most games which encourage you to sit in one place this one sends you out into the world. I downloaded is a week ago and on the first day I found out little rural town was rife with all of the things needed to play the game.
I went out for a walk on a beautiful summer Sunday and as I traveled from pokestop to pokestop I found others doing the same. A family of four where the women were taking on the men in who could catch the most pokemon. All of this while probably walking a mile or two. Exercise, family bonding, and fun. A group of teen agers sitting on picnic tables near our town hall battling to control the gym there. Laughing as each team took up their own picnic table. One guy I met later in the week talked about how a night out at a local entertainment complex which was supposed to start in the bar. Instead ended there after they had scoured the lake at the center for pokemon and met some women doing that same thing. They worked together to hunt down a rare one and then they enjoyed the rest of the evening together.
I have enjoyed all of my random interactions as I’ve walked around trying to add to my Pokedex. It is a new world of gaming out there and I like it a lot.