It’s not news Pokémon GO is absolutely taking over the world, but there’s a lot more to the madness than people walking around with their faces in phones.
Likely this isn’t the first story you’ve seen about Pokémon GO, the mobile phone game sweeping the nation, and it probably won’t be your last. The newest entry in the Pokémon series has taken the world by storm in a totally unprecedented way that even Nintendo and Niantic couldn’t have seen coming (evidenced by early server woes). But what does it all mean? What effects is Pokémon GO really having on the real world? Fortunately, there are plenty of positive outcomes…but for every point to celebrate there’s one to ponder. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons we’ve seen since Pokémon GO launched last week.
PRO: People are getting exercise
Yes, this one is obvious, I know. But Pokémon GO is doing a tremendous job of getting people up and moving, myself included. I find it difficult to exercise simply because it usually isn’t fun. The activities I enjoy aren’t exactly ones I can do often (like going kayaking or even swimming, as I don’t have a pool). Walking and running just plain suck, in my humble opinion. But since Pokémon GO has gamified the simple act of walking, I’ve found myself purposely leaving my office around lunchtime just to walk and nab some new creatures. It’s not just me: people around the world are destroying the battery life of their phones to explore the world around them in a new way, getting some much needed mileage along the way. In America especially, I know we can all use a bit more physical activity. Some might argue it’s pathetic we need a video game to motivate us, but the bottom line is that so far it’s working. There’s no real arguing with that.
CONS People are becoming oblivious
Just Google “Pokémon GO Accident,” and you’ll be treated to dozens of stories of people getting into falling off cliffs, driving into trees and otherwise injuring themselves while playing the new game. It’s an unfortunate truth: some people are paying more attention to the game than reality. Yes, there are some pretty compelling reasons to do so. After all, the virtual world is pretty cool, and you never know when that Ninetales will show up. But seriously, be aware of your surroundings, just like Gyrados says when you open the app. Look both ways before crossing the street, and don’t GO and drive at the same time.
PRO: Players are meeting new people
Pokémon Go-ers have been meeting fellow players in massive numbers since the game launched last week. From the small gathering of a dozen people I witnessed outside a grocery store this weekend to the hordes of people who have flooded New York’s Central Park, players are uniting in incredible ways. In all the people I’ve met while playing the game, I’ve never met an unfriendly one. People are having fun and are willing to chat with fellow players, even complete strangers. After all, it’s pretty easy to tell when a person is playing the game in public (a person standing at an otherwise random location while staring intently at his or her phone is probably battling a gym), which means there’s at least one thing in common between you and that other guy or gal you see. This is an incredible opportunity to make some new friends in an organic, unique way that no video game has ever matched before. Considering Pokémon GO doesn’t currently have a team chat, meeting others and exchanging numbers is one of the most viable ways to team up and take over an area. Make some friends and have a blast!
CON: Some of those new people might rob you
Yes, you should have a blast while meeting others…but be safe. If you’re hunting ghost type Pokémon at night, make sure you’re doing so in a well lit, open area where others would be unlikely to do things like rob you. Unfortunately, crimes related to Pokémon GO have already been popping up, so my message is this: yes, you can talk to strangers, but be smart about when and where you do so. Always keep your wits about you and be careful out there, Trainers.
PRO: You might explore places you’ve never known about before
I go to college at Ohio University, and we have a lot of PokéStops. There are tons of historical markers, memorials, statues, murals and old buildings on and around campus. On a handful of occasions, I’ve clicked PokéStops only to say “Whoa, I never knew that existed!” I’ve found murals I never knew were along walls and I’ve seen buildings that I didn’t previously realize were significant. Since Pokémon GO points out places of interest, you might just find something cool in your town as well. But on the flipside…
CON: You might not notice the world around you
More time staring at a phone means less time taking in the world around you. Yes, it’s tantalizing to check out the app to see what a new city you’ve never visited has in store. But don’t forget to look up and see what that city actually looks like! I took a trip to Cincinnati last weekend, and oh boy, there are some different Pokémon out there. I was giddy to catch some of the ones I’ve never seen at home, and yes, the app even pointed out some landmarks for me as well via PokéStops. But I had to remember to pull my face from my phone to really look at the city and take in the real world equivalent to what my game was displaying. It’s easy to get lost in Pokémon GO, so don’t get lost figuratively or literally.
PRO: Pokémon GO is mainstreaming gaming
Video gaming has been looked down upon by many since its conception. Per stereotype, older generations can’t seem to understand the allure of gaming, and younger generations don’t understand how it’s any different from enjoying sports or television. Gamers have been viewed as shut-ins and socially inept people for decades. Maybe that’s true to some extent, but Pokémon GO is definitely changing that stereotype by (as I mentioned earlier) getting people out and about in massive numbers. Millions of people are playing the game, but instead of doing so from the comfort of a couch, they’re out in public, showing the world that gaming does not equate laziness.
Many of the people I work with aren’t considered gamers. Some haven’t touched a game since the Atari and others simply don’t play games at all. But several of them have given Pokémon GO a shot only to realize it’s a lot of fun. For many others, this is their first ever encounter with gaming, and it’s proving how innovative, cheerful and fun the medium can be. The app is conveying the simply joy of discovery to a whole demographic of people who never realized the potential of gaming. It’s even helping parents connect with their kids: they’re finally playing their kids’ favorite game alongside them. It’s all starting to click. People are understanding what longtime gamers have always understood: gaming is fun. Even if Pokémon GO is the only game some people will ever play or enjoy, it’s helping de-stigmatize our favorite pastime and allowing them to relate.
As it is, Pokémon GO has been the topic of morning radio shows, talk shows and news reports on mainstream websites. For the first time as far back as I can remember, gaming is getting positive press about a title seemingly everybody can enjoy. The reports aren’t about sales numbers for controversial or graphic series like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. They’re not about new statistics or scientific studies linking gaming to murders. They’re about informing the public as to what Pokémon GO is (and in a really understandable, relatable, unbaised way) and why it’s so popular. It’s leading people to see that gaming really isn’t that bad, and for that, I am grateful.
CON: Pokémon GO is bringing up that old debate
It started when players realized Westboro Baptist Church is a gym. Then the church fired back with its nasty response, reigniting the debate on whether or not video games are satanic or demonizing. Maybe I’ve happened to notice this more than others since I’m a Christian, but it seems at least a quarter of the Pokémon GO posts I see on my Facebook news feed are bringing up religion, especially since many religious organizations disagree with the morals or values of the game and are upset their buildings are being listed as PokéStops. Seriously? Just put it to rest. Whether you believe in Hell or not, I’m pretty sure that a game about having pets and bonding with them isn’t going to send your kids there. If you read up on Pokémon lore, you’ll understand that although the game is technically violent (as PETA is quick to point out), it turns out that Pokémon love to battle and want to bond with their trainers. Just like a loyal dog would do anything for its owner, Pikachu will do anything for Ash. Let’s focus on that, shall we?
At the end of the day, the reaction I’ve seen toward Pokémon GO has been far more positive than it has negative. People are embracing the game and the medium, and although some nasty side effects have spawned, Pokémon GO is doing a great job of uniting a crazy world in a fun way. It’s something I’m incredibly happy to be a part of. What about you?