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Pokemon Go: Menace or Miracle?

By Krista Elliott

You’ve read about it on social media, heard about it on the news, and maybe have even seen people wandering around in your neighborhood staring at their phones.

It’s official: Pokémon Go is the latest craze.

Like any new fad, it divides people into groups: Those who embrace it early and leap in with both feet, those who wait and see and usually try it out after a while, and those who think the entire thing is silly and not worth anybody’s time or energy.

If you fall into the latter group, however, hear me out! There are actually some great reasons why you should support Pokémon Go and its players, even if you are tired of hearing about it.

First, What IS Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is a free game for mobile devices that uses the GPS and camera of your phone or tablet. Little virtual characters called Pokémon (short for pocket monsters), are located at various GPS points throughout the world. The aim is to find them, and “catch” them using the touch display on your camera. You can also then upgrade and train your Pokémon, battling them against other players’ Pokémon at virtual “gyms.”

So Why is it a Good Thing?

  • It Gets People Outside and Moving: How many times have we heard snickering about pasty-skinned gamers who never go outside? Because Pokémon are usually located outdoors, players will often walk around for hours on end looking for elusive or rare ones, logging miles and miles of walking.
  • It Builds Community: In popular public spots, it’s not unusual to see hundreds of Pokémon Go players milling around, giving each other tips, high-fiving each other for a great catch, and letting each other know where to find any elusive critters. A mother of an autistic boy even claims that playing the game has effected a major positive change in his socialization and verbal skills.
  • It Helps our Animal Friends: Dog owners who play Pokémon Go report bringing their animals for extra walks or longer walks, which helps them trim down and stay healthy. In one memorable case, an animal shelter in Muncie, Indiana, took advantage of the trend and asked players to walk their adoptable dogs while out playing. Less than a week after putting out the call, they’ve had hundreds of people participate, and some dogs have even been adopted.
  • It has Precedent: Anybody out there do geocaching? Well, geocaching is a sport that is not dissimilar to Pokémon Go, in that you are walking around in nature, using coordinates on a phone or GPS to look for a cache. People thought geocaching was really weird at first too, and then started clueing in that it was a great family activity (and a great way to draw visitors to your community or business).

So, maybe it’s time to cut the Pokémon Go players a little bit of slack. They’re outside, having fun, getting exercise, and meeting new people. As far as trends go, goodness knows we could do worse. 

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