Pokemon GO Could Change the World

Okay yes. Hyperbole. But bear with me.

For those in the dark, Pokemon GO is the brand new Pokemon mobile game. As you walk in the real world you encounter Pokemon that appear through your phone’s camera via augmented reality. It’s as cool as it sounds, except the servers can’t handle the massive amount of users who want to play at any given time.

When the game was first announced I made jokes about this being the end of civilization. Eveybody would be spending their days playing the game instead of doing their jobs, going on massive detours to find that one Pokemon and getting lost or injured in the process. But I’m starting to think that this game’s net impact could be a positive one.

My Facebook news feed has been covered in posts about Pokemon GO but one stood out to me. A friend found herself walking through a local park late at night to catch Pokemon. In that park she met three other people who were all doing the same thing. It bonded them in a way.

And then I realized that’s exactly how people sound in the Pokemon games.

In each Pokemon game, you go from town to town and encounter random townspeople therein. A lot of what they have to say involved how great Pokemon are. How Pokemon help their lives or help to bring people together. I always considered these dialogues childish (then again the game is for children) but suddenly we’re seeing people in the real world meeting because of Pokemon and talking about how great they are.

In these games you leave the town you know and discover brand new places. GO’s gyms are located in local points of interests, and discovering them can help you to understand your town better. This mobile game is seeding elements of the Pokemon world into our real world.

This isn’t the end of the world like I thought it was. It’s actually creating a kind of beautiful connection. At work today I used a break to look around for some Pokemon. I found a Growlithe, a Pidgeotto, a Paras, and a Spearow all around the Warner Brothers lot.

A cart drove past me as I attempted to catch the Pidegotto, and the driver immediately recognized the look of somebody playing this game. He announced to everybody else on the cart, “over here we have a guy playing Pokemon GO” and they all cheered.

I started seeing players around the lot as well. You may see them around too. Normally, somebody playing a phone game will look slack-jawed and sport a vacant expression but that isn’t the case here. Pokemon GO players are engaged with the game, actively walking around to seek out new Pokemon and level themselves up. They’re exercising! And when they find a  Pokemon to catch it is genuinely exciting.

While I walked around the lot I found a couple of “Pokespots”, which are other little points of interest. These were all sound stages, and one of them even had a blurb written up about the history of the stage! Now I’m wondering what else I will learn about out there. As I said, gyms are special points of interest and the building I work in is one of them. The gyms work by having a player overcome the Pokemon on top of it in a fight and then leaving their own there to defend their title. Which means the whole building is fighting to control that spot.

And yes, this could potentially interfere with work. That worry remains valid. Well, that and the micro-transactions thing. But the solution to that is more accidental than anything else. This game will kill your phone’s battery life. We simply do not have the battery technology to keep up with these higher quality phone games. Instead, you get maybe an hour of the game per day before your phone goes critical so you can only really play for short bursts at a time. Which is, again, a good thing.

This game is creating the same joy in people that I always found deeply unrealistic in the Pokemon video games and yet I can’t stop seeing it. It’s making people learn more about where they live and introducing them to people they otherwise wouldn’t know. And if it gets big enough, it will do that on an even greater scale.

So yeah, Pokemon GO Could change the world.

If the servers would just clear out so I could play!

-JP

PS, the game also needs more robust character customization options

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