Pokémon Go is ubiquitous. Take a walk in the park and you’ll probably run into a handful of people who are canvassing the area for PokéStops, throwing virtual balls at Pokémon, and battling at gyms.
Just in case you’ve never noticed a Pokémon player in the wild, it’s pretty easy to spot them:
But even if you haven’t seen any offline yet, the game is everywhere on social media and the news as well. If you’ve heard the buzzing but aren’t sure where to start, I recommend this article for a basic intro to the augmented reality game du jour.
I can’t remember another mobile game in recent history that has found such a widespread audience. It’s not just the established base of Pokémon fans, now in their 20s and 30s. The game is attracting new people too, even those who never really had anything to do with the Pokémon universe before.
So, what is it about Pokémon Go that appeals to such a broad audience?
1. Pokémon Go is bringing people together
On one of our evening walks this week (see above photo), my wife and I were headed to a nearby park. I was planning to check out some PokéStops to learn more about the game before blogging about it.
I spotted two girls walking hunched over their phones, chatting excitedly. When they passed us I asked: “Is there a Pokéstop up ahead?” We had a short chat, and they pointed out some good areas in the park. One of them said she’d spent most of her day walking around in the park already. I wasn’t the first stranger that day chatting with them about Pokémon.
You have to understand that I live in Vienna, Austria. You don’t just talk to strangers here. Under different circumstances, walking up to strangers for a chat would net you some strange looks and a few disparaging remarks. Hell, shoot someone a friendly smile and they will look at you as if you’ve lost your marbles. We do not interact with strangers. But Pokémon Go is changing all that, and not just in grumpy old Vienna.
I asked around online a bit and have heard anecdotes of strangers interacting from everywhere.
“I just happened to walk past and saw a whole group of people all on their phones together. But even though they were on their phones, strangers were connecting with other groups of people over the excitement of being able to catch whichever Pokémon were around at the time,” @stevepdp told me.
Some people are making new friends via Pokémon Go. And I’ve also heard of whole families, parents and kids together, venturing out to catch some Pokémon.
Even those who don’t play the game are beginning to interact with the players.
“This older gentleman approached some girls who were hanging out near a Pokémon gym and asked them: ‘Are you… are you playing that Pokémon thing? RIGHT NOW?’ He was BLOWN AWAY!” Alaina (30) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania told me.
Undeniably, one major draw of Pokémon Go is the promise of human connection.
2. It’s giving the party poopers something to fixate on
Of course, not everyone looks upon the game favourably.
Get off my lawn, Pokemon Go edition pic.twitter.com/ZwVmOIKmpd
— David Harvey (@davidharvey) July 17, 2016
Isn’t it nice that Pokémon Go is giving those of a curmudgeonly disposition something to rage against? 😉
3. It’s also bringing out the best in people
One Joe Heenan (a comedian from Glasgow) has contacted me to tell me that this is his sign. So credit where it's due!
4. People are getting outside and moving more
Since Pokémon Go was released, many people are getting a lot more exercise than they usually would. Sure you can catch Pokémon from a bus if it goes slow. But to really make some progress in the game you have to venture out into the streets and get some miles in — especially since hatching eggs requires players to walk certain distances. Many players are even buying battery packs for their phones so they can stay out longer.
In a world plagued by lifestyle diseases caused by using computers, sitting too much and not moving around enough, a game that gets people out of the house and walking can’t be bad. Okay, maybe it isn’t super healthy to walk bent over your phone but it definitely beats being hunched over your phone while sitting on a chair.
All that walking seems to have a positive effect not just on the physical but also the mental health of players. And it’s good for dogs too since many are finally being taken on decent walks by their owners. It even sparked a meme!
— Rae Master (@DesignSellout) July 13, 2016
— 🌱Bitchcoin Investor (@KatNicoleB) July 13, 2016
5. Pokémon Go is being used for good
Speaking of dogs: An animal shelter in Indiana started publishing ads encouraging Pokémon Go players to walk the shelter dogs. The dogs are getting a good long workout, and the copious posts players share to social media is getting the shelter dogs quite a bit of exposure as well. Maybe once people have collected all pokémon, they’ll adopt a dog as well.
Meanwhile, LGBT sexual and mental health organisation Yorkshire Mesmac is using Pokémon lure modules to motivate people to get tested for STI and HIV.
— yorkshire mesmac (@yorkshiremesmac) July 18, 2016
6. Pokémon Go is the new Tinder and Grindr
Decades from now Pokémon Go will be part of the meet-cute stories grandparents tell their grandchildren. And even if it’s not always the love of a lifetime, people are having fun flirting while hunting Pokémon.
A CUTE GAY BOY WITH A DOG JUST ASKED ME IF I FOUND ANYTHING GOOD ON THIS BLOCK that's it #PokemonGO is better than grindr
— tyler oakley (@tyleroakley) July 13, 2016
7. People are getting creative
The Pokemon Go community (Check out our #PokemonGo wall!) is always good for a bit of fun.
Looks like #PokemonGo is out in the UK!
We're already having fun ✨ pic.twitter.com/ERdipQ4tBx
— Dean Dobbs (@DeanDobbs) July 14, 2016
And by far my favourite so far:
— Pete Zaroll (@totinos) July 11, 2016
8. Pokémon Go is stimulating the economy
Some businesses, Restaurants especially, are being smart enough to jump on the bandwagon and make good use of Pokémon Go to attract players.
Many Restaurants are sharing information about PokéStops and gyms at their location on social media. A Chinese restaurant in Sidney is even activating Lure Models twice a day as an incentive for the lunch and dinner crowds.
Major chains like Applebee’s have taken to retweeting their customers’ social media posts about Pokémon caught at their venues. A Texas Restaurant has created kamikaze shots inspired by Valor, Mystic and Instinct (the three teams players can join in Pokémon Go). Others are giving discounts to Pokémon Go players or specific teams.
But not all is fluffy in the world of Pokémon Go
While Pokémon Go is giving a great many people a lot of joy, we shouldn’t forget that the game has downsides as well — especially since some people are risking their safety playing it. Generally speaking, that’s not the game’s fault. But it does well to remember this.
I think it’s perfectly fine to enjoy playing Pokémon Go — don’t let the curmudgeons of this world ruin it for you —, but do your best so others can enjoy it as well. Watch out for your fellow players and don‘t let them fall prey to racist or sexists attacks.
And, you know, don’t walk into a pole. 😉