I was clicking through Facebook the other day and saw a post that said “Pokemon Go is doing more for childhood obesity in 2 days than Michelle Obama has in 8 years” and while I know the post was being a bit facetious, I do have to wonder how much truth there is to that statement after seeing what I have over the past few days since the release of the gaming application not quite a week ago.
For anyone living under a rock or otherwise unattached to any technology that does not know what this is, Pokemon Go is a game released 4 or 5 days ago that takes the Pokemon characters and puts the user in the driver’s seat as a “trainer”, or someone who catches and levels up these little imaginary creatures. The game has had millions of downloads in a few short days and puts the entire gaming environment on top of the real world in an augmented reality fashion with hot spots on top of local businesses, parks, and places of worship.
For the remainder of this post, I will assume you know a little more about the app itself, because this is more about how it is changing people than the actual game itself.
I downloaded the game the day after it came out. Why did I wait so long, you ask? Because I did not know about it until I saw the countless posts on Facebook about it. But then a funny thing happened. My daughter (9) wanted it. My sons (19 and 22) wanted it (although, to be fair, my oldest boy got it but my middle child has a broken phone so he doesn’t yet have the game).
Like most kids, the 22 year old has limited conversations with his parents now that he is out on his own to some degree. He comes over occasionally and eats our food, has the obligatory “yes, I’m fine” conversations with us, but most aspects of his life are a blur to us as we try to keep up with what he is doing in small snippets of conversations. That is, until Pokemon. See, in the past few days, I have talked more with him than I have in the probably 2-3 months prior. Now, obviously, a lot of these conversations are him bragging about the awesome Pokemon he caught or taking over a training gym in the game, etc., but during this, actual conversations happened (weird, right?). So here we are, actually talking without me feeling like I am forcing Q&A sessions down his throat to report to his mother, LOL.
The past two nights, we spent time together hunting Pokemon. One night it was driving down the road from his apartment to hit the local “Pokestops” and last night, I took his little sister and met him at a local park where many other people were doing the same thing – and we all had a good time. But what I saw was even more impressive!
Jones Park, a local waterfront park in Gulfport, MS which houses playground equipment, splash pad, walking trails, and a marina, usually has small groups of people hanging around either playing at the park or getting ready to go out fishing, etc, but with the release of Pokemon Go, it also houses several Pokestops where people can get extra items for the game, and this has become one of the hot spots for people to gather and play the game together. Our local news even did a small story about it (my son is in the background of one of the video shots – see full story)
This visit to the park I was able to see dozens, if not over a hundred people walking around between these Pokestops, playing their games, walking with their kids, teenagers hanging out and talking. A few people brought coolers loaded with water bottles that were free to anyone wanting them, and people were just hanging out, drinking water, talking and playing a game.
But why is this important?
Well, most of these people would be sitting at home on a computer or watching TV on a Sunday evening had it not been for this game.
I saw people that are usually a bit more introverted in nature, sitting in fold-out chairs, talking with other people and having a good time. I saw people that normally get no exercise walking around the park trying to catch new Pokemon and trying to hatch eggs that can only be hatched by walking 2k, 5k, or 10k per egg while incubating the eggs. I saw strangers striking up conversations in the park while talking about what new Pokemon characters they are catching and sharing tips and tricks about the game as well as where they found some of the rarer ones.
For years, technology has converted us from a “get out and do” crowd to an “everything is at your fingertips so you don’t have to move” crowd. This new app, whether intentional or not, seems to be changing that. One young man introduced himself to me and jokingly said he was a “300 pound couch-potato-gamer” and never exercised. After talking with him for just a few minutes, he said he has walked over 30 kilometers (Approximately 18½ miles) in 4 days to catch Pokemon and hatch eggs. He went on to say he has lost a little over 10 pounds and is drinking mostly water instead of his normal sodas because it doesn’t make him feel as sluggish. After congratulating him on his Pokemon and his weight loss, I thought to myself just how much this game really could be a life-changer for many. This is a game that is getting typically introverted people in their teens to early twenties out and about. It is making them exercise to play the game. And that can do a lot more for them than most of them will even fathom. Even I managed to rack up about a 3k walk on the game in a little over an hour at the park – and I’m sure it isn’t gonna hurt me to get out a little more either 😉
Remember app developers – you can make a game or an app to make you money any day of the week, but to make an app that could very well literally change peoples’ way of life for the better…now that is something to be proud of.
Oh, if you are playing this game, you could use some extra battery for your phone. This has been a popular idea among the more serious and will keep your phone charged and offers a hydration pack to keep you, well…hydrated 😉
Solar Powered Battery Charging Hydration Backpack