Why Pokémon Go is So Much Greater Than Just Catching Virtual Creatures

Pokémon Go. If you’re not playing it, you know someone who is. For those of you who don’t know, Pokémon Go is a gaming application that uses your GPS location and camera to bring Pokémon to life as you capture Pokémon (animated creatures) in nearby locations, collect items and train Pokémon at PokeStops and Gyms that are based at actual locations in your city (there is even a Gym at the White House), and basically let you “be the very best, like no one ever was.”

This game has quickly gained popularity and compares to Twitter in number of daily users. Personally, I’m obsessed. Friends and I have spent an unspeakable amount of time exploring around town, dominating gyms, and David and I have perhaps raced each other down the street of our neighborhood once or twice to catch a Sandshrew and Vaporeon in the neighbor’s yard. We’re adults, we promise. Judge all you want.

Anyway, Pokémon Go is huge, and for good reasons like these:

It’s getting people outside and moving. There are no shortcuts (except maybe this one). If you really want to play this game, you have to get outside your house. You have to explore. You have to get moving! People who otherwise would still be putting off exercise (AKA myself) are finally finding a reason to get moving, and it’s all because of this little game. Amazing.

Pokémon Go has done more in a few days than Michelle Obama has been trying to do for the past eight years (it’s okay Michelle, you’ve done pretty well)! I cannot wait to see how many weight loss stories come from getting outside because of this game, seriously. Because if you try to play Pokémon Go from the comfort of your own home, all you’ll have is 40 Rattatas.

 

It’s waking up our inner child. For older millennials who grew up watching Pokémon or playing it on our GameBoys (and for those of us who continued into late adolescence/early adulthood on our Nintendo DS…. not me, of course. No way), this game is incredibly nostalgic. This game takes us back to a time when student loans, taxes, and responsibilities didn’t exist, and it feels GOOD. It’s an awesome escape from adulthood.

And who knew we still had the names of most of these Pokémon stored somewhere in the back of our brains? Could it have been the countless “Who’s That Pokémon?” segments of the show that engraved themselves into the recesses of our memory? No idea. All we know is that somehow we know that weirdly-shaped blob of shadow on our Nearby list is definitely a Haunter and though it’s 3AM, we’re lacing up our shoes to go and catch that son of a gun.

 

It’s bringing people together. Some friends and I went to a nearby park the other day and encountered dozens of people playing this game. People of all ages, races, cultures, styles, and beliefs were trotting along intriguingly staring at their smart phones as they explored.

As we walked along each path, stopped at each PokeStop, and passed by so many other players, I couldn’t shut up about how much I loved this game for bringing people together. So many conversations started up and positivity exchanged simply because of this game. People who otherwise would have nothing to do with one another are suddenly exchanging words at the base of a weird piece of art that happened to be a Pokémon Gym.

It reminds me so much of my faith and how the Church brings people from so many different backgrounds all in the name of Christ. In a world that right now seems so full of hatred and division, this little nerdy game is uniting so many of us, and I just think that’s awesome.

 

It’s improving people’s mental health. I can attest to this. When you struggle with mental health, especially ones like depression or anxiety, it can be hard to get motivated to exercise or sometimes even leave the house. Most of us know that our mental health would improve with exercise, but mustering up the energy and enthusiasm for it is hard sometimes!

Pokémon Go is giving people a reason to leave the house, exercise, and even be social by interacting with other players. It’s awesome because when you get outside, the reward is immediate when you catch a Pokémon or become a Gym leader. People all over social media are raving that this game has improved their mental health, and for that reason it can get addicting!

 

 

This game has people outside, running around town, hanging out with friends, and catching ’em all. Would it be better if something else other than a smart phone app were to motivate people to be social and active? Sure. Yes, this game is just imaginary creatures. To some, it’s weird that grown adults are buying into this craze. And I’m sure that eventually this fad will fizzle out and we’ll go back to our regularly scheduled programming. But  right now, thanks to Pokémon Go, people are unified, nostalgic, mobile, and happy. What more could you ask for in an app (besides one that cleans your house and bakes you an unlimited supply of donuts at the same time)?

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