I have about as many reasons to dislike Pokemon Go as the next guy. As a commuter cyclist, I hate anything that gives people another reason to wander the city staring at their phones. (Thank goodness the app has a speed limit so that people are less tempted to use it in their cars.) As a runner, it's kind of annoying to navigate people slowly biking while staring into their phones or walking right into your path while staring into their phones. As a self defense instructor, the stories about people using the app to lure players into robberies and other unsafe situations makes me cringe (more on the safety aspect later). Additionally, I know nothing about Pokemon. I'm not a video game person, I was never into the cartoon as a kid, it's not something I've ever cared about or WANTED to care about. To top it all off, my husband IS into Pokemon, WAS into the cartoon as a kid and is VERY into the whole video game thing, so here's another timesuck available for him to delve into.
But I'm not going to bash it. I may even celebrate it a little. Hear me out.
Let's start with the small things that most likely you already know, shall we? We've all heard about the animal shelters getting Pokemon Go players to volunteer to walk their dogs while they're playing the game. That's nice. It makes up for a few slow bikers getting in my way on my run. There's also the concept of Pokestops. These are places in the real world that the game creators have designated as places where players can get things that they need to play the game, like the Pokeballs they use to collect the little Pokemon creatures and the 'candies' that they use to feed them. Some local businesses have seen a business boom because they have become Pokestops and now a new influx of people are visiting. There have been reports of children's hospitals that are stops and even further, the hospitals have asked players to put their extra lures on the hospitals. (These are things that you can attach to Pokestops to lure more Pokemon to that area.) Sick children who can't go out can now play the game within the confines of the hospital with more Pokemon visiting them. These are cool things!
Now I'm going to bring this back down to a personal level before I push it back out to a more widely social level.
I'm an active person both physically and mentally. If I'm not moving, I'm reading or writing (or sleeping or eating). If I'm not doing theatre, I'm taking a martial arts class, getting a yoga certification, planning things with friends, etc. Basically, I'm not a gamer. I'll play the occasional board game with friends if that's happening, but I like to have an out. Sitting in front of the t.v. and following a game, or carrying a little device and clicking through a game have never appealed to me. Tetris is kind of okay, but only for a limited time. As I have mentioned, my husband, Dean, is very into video games and has been all his life. Not just the games themselves, but the stories behind their creation, the concept art, the musical composition, the whole shebang. I can appreciate some of the visual concept art and the obvious artistic talent (I DO enjoy anime) and some of the newer musical pieces are nice (I can't get into the 8 bit stuff, I appreciate the difficulty and creativity that went into working with a limited medium, but it all sounds the same to me) but that's about it.
Dean is not as active as I am. That's not to say he's not physically talented (he has great body awareness and builds muscle quickly) or that he doesn't occasionally work out, it's just that he would prefer not to. He does enough to stay healthy and sometimes enjoys the activity, but he would just as soon stay on the couch and play Final Fantasy.
That being said, Dean has run several races with me. The one or two that he hasn't joined me in, he's come out and supported me during the race. He's taken classes that I've taught, he's gone to marital arts and yoga classes with me, he's even let me put him through workouts in our living room when I'm trying out new classes. He doesn't hate these things, in fact, I believe that most of the time he enjoys them and we have fun, but I'm under no illusion. I know that the main reason he's doing these things is to be with me. Does he have fun trouncing through the mud and climbing over scaffolding in a 10k obstacle course race? Sure! He's a generally happy guy and pretty open to most experiences. Would he go seek out a 10k obstacle course race and trounce around in the mud for 10 kilometers on his own? Probably not.
I have tried to play video games for Dean. I tried to sit with him while he played one. He had me name the characters and choose what we did and I did it for an hour. Because I love him. We never did it again. He even tried to get me to play this handheld lawyer game that he honestly thought I would like because it's kind of like a choose your own adventure story. I played through one case and once that was solved, I was all, "Cool, I'm done." He then told me there are several cases to a game and I was, quite frankly, crestfallen. Enter Pokemon Go.
One night, we were sitting on the couch folding laundry or something mundane on a Sunday and he brought the game up. A wild Rattata appeared in our living room. He showed it to me and I dutifully watched as he explained it and then caught the Rattata. It was interesting because the view from his phone showed this rat-like creature sitting on our coffee table. He showed me the map view of our neighborhood and we went out on the balcony and he showed me where the Pokestops were and showed me what other Pokemon were nearby according to the game. He then asked if he could run out and try and catch a certain Pokemon that it showed. I said sure, go ahead. Suddenly Dean is going on random walks? A few days later we had some free time and I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk in the park and catch Pokemon. He did. While we were catching them, he explained to me how different types were found in different areas and different ones were found in the day and at night. We walked about two miles. Occasionally we'd see other people playing, "Got anything good?" Sometimes they did, sometimes not. We went for a night walk once and saw a friend tending bar, so stopped in to say hi. There were a few other people playing also. Mostly pairs.
Personally, I enjoy the pair Pokewalks because while one person may be a bit more focused on their screen, the other can keep their eyes up and out, keep their friend from walking into poles or the street and perhaps suggest turning around if the hunt is moving them into a dodgy area.
Being from the south, I also kind of enjoy the random friendly interactions with strangers. They don't happen as much above the Mason Dixon and I do like when we occasionally acknowledge the other people inhabiting the planet with us.
I like that people are getting out and moving. It's like a scavenger hunt in your pocket that you can pull out whenever you feel like it. And this is most likely a group of people that would have been very happy to sit at home in front of their screens with their controllers and play other games. This is a group of people that probably don't walk out and visit local stores in their free time, or volunteer to walk dogs (maybe adopt a dog). Another story on the internet told of a war memorial that had been made into a Pokestop. The policeman posting the story said how he had swung by the memorial on a round and all of these kids were respectfully walking around observing the memorial, reading the names of those who had died, all while they waited for their Pokemon to show up. Would they have taken the time to visit the memorial otherwise?
On a personal level, I'm glad that this game has brought something of Dean's that I can share with him, participate in on some level, and enjoy with him. On a social level, I'm glad that people are getting out, trying different things, moving around, exploring the places around them and learning new things about where they live. Yes of course there are going to be people who abuse it and there will be people who don't pay attention, but the same is true for almost everything that people do. With this one, I'm going to chose to look at the good.