By now you will have heard about Pokémon GO, the latest craze encapsulating our youngest generation. A game about finding and capturing fictional creatures with various powers, Pokémon GO has made headlines as it quickly became the biggest mobile game in history. It was reported a few weeks ago that the game had even surpassed Twitter in its number of daily users -- no small feat indeed.
To say that the game is addictive would be an understatement; it's free, after all, and many twenty-somethings are absolutely loving the opportunity to catch their favourite 150 monsters from their collective childhoods.
Much has been made of the dangers of playing Pokémon GO; anywhere you turn online you will see articles about unsuspecting players being struck by vehicles or falling off cliffs. But little has been made of the game's pros, of which there are many. Many crotchety boomers might be inclined to dismiss any of the positives in phenomena that they don't completely understand -- fair enough -- but players are hooked on this game for a reason.
With the advent of the television came the term "couch potato," which loosely described someone who spent "too much" time lazing around instead of keeping active. Soon after came home movies and eventually video games, both of which no doubt contributed to a rapid increase in child obesity rates in the western world. As more and more people began playing video games (keeping in mind that games and game players have shifted at huge speeds from consoles and computers to smartphones and tablets), fewer and fewer kept active.
Then came Pokémon GO, which encourages exploration and physical movement. Sure, the game's world takes place on a cell phone screen, but there is no fantasy in seeing its players visibly moving around. Pokémon spawn all over the world now, and players are forced to leave their living rooms and basements to find the monsters and catch them for their personal collections.
You must have seen them: people walking around, cell phones in hand, checking regularly to see what new beasts have spawned nearby. Players can be spotted around residential neighbourhoods, but even more often around downtown cores, waterfronts, and any PokéStop that has been "lured." In any case, you will see these people walking, running, or biking around -- something the older generations have been so yearning their children and grandchildren to be doing more often for decades. Players are quite literally discovering the world around them, and for gamers with social anxiety and the like, Pokémon GO might be proving one great way to get outside and exercise.
Anecdotally, I have travelled to nearby parks and beaches that I would otherwise never have visited because of this game. Just last week on my lunch break, I found a beautiful area not far from my place of employment. I walked around, hatched some eggs, and found a nice picnic table to eat my lunch. Looking around, I saw a handful of fellow Pokémon players, but also families and seniors simply enjoying the gorgeous day. It really brightened my mood being in such a serene place, and I have Pokémon GO to thank for introducing me to new, nearby favourite spots.
Players definitely need to be alert of their surroundings, as the game warns every time it is loaded up, but to dismiss this game and the social change it has produced would be naïve. Hopefully this phenomenon lasts long enough to be studied in greater depths, for it is really changing the world as we know it.
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