Pokemon Go is Doing Authentic ‘Good’ in the World, and that’s a Beautiful Thing

*This post was originally published on The Game Bolt in July, 2016*

If you have eyes, ears, and a stable connection to any sort of news or social media then you’ve definitely been inundated with Pokemon Go over the previous weeks. The success of the app is undeniable. In the few short weeks it’s been out Pokemon Go has become the most downloaded app on the App store and now averages more active users than mobile dating apps like Tinder. Pokemon Go users even average more time per day than Facebook users, at a ratio of 33 minutes to 25 minutes respectively. Just about every news station in America and in other countries around the world have done a piece on the game. This is all not to mention that Nintendo’s stocks have skyrocketed since its release which undoubtedly opened up new doors for Nintendo and further cemented them as a beloved gaming company. Pokemon Go is a massive success for Nintendo but this is all not to mention what it’s doing for its users.

For the uninformed, and the sake of posterity, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality application. Augmented reality refers to the method of using some sort of electronic device to overlay digital images in the real world. In the case of Pokemon Go, you look through your smart phone’s camera to see pokemon pop up on screen. Then it’s a matter of playing pokemon the way we all know how, by catching the little guys. You simply tap your screen to catch whatever pocket monster is there and add it to your collection. But unlike the handheld games we’ve all come to know and love, Pokemon Go operates on going out into the world because Pokemon spawn based on map data from Google maps. So to catch Pokemon, you’re almost required to go out into the world to hunt them down like a true Pokemon master.

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This is what makes the game amazing. It’s getting people out into the world and having them all do something they love together. Strangers are walking by each other in public. Then there’s the telltale sign of elation when a person looking at their phone frantically starts to look around and tap their screen with fervor. The fist pump, the “yes!,” and it’s obvious they just caught another Pokemon. Suddenly there’s this point of connection between people who on any other day would have walked by each other. But because of Pokemon Go, they’re more likely to connect. Reports are abound with people reaching out to others in their local community to get out and go hunt Pokemon together. Complete strangers are meeting up and helping to build a more connected communal lifestyle. It’s incredible because only Pokemon Go could have done this with the way its game is set up. Where in the past gamers could meet friends online in matchmaking games, they might never actually meet those people in real life. Pokemon is allowing people to meet face to face for some human interaction.

There are horror stories to have come out of Pokemon Go, sadly. People have already been injured or even died because of Pokemon Go because they didn’t take time to look up from the game to check their surroundings. There was even a horrible case of three men who were using the in game lures to bring people to their area in order to mug them. These are sad stories but they’re few and far between from all the good the game is doing to get people out and about. It’s important to take proper precautions because yes, Pokemon Go is a light hearted game but that doesn’t change the nature of people. Going Pokemon hunting in groups and taking some time to pay attention to your surroundings are key in enjoying your experience.

Even in my own community in northern Indiana there are already Pokemon Go Facebook groups and Twitter accounts of people who are meeting right in my own city. People are sharing Poke Stop locations and safe locations to go hunting. There are even scheduled meet ups in my own neighborhood. I’ve seen people start to use the app as a way to break into exercising by simply walking or going on a jog to catch Pokemon. Even my local morning rock and roll radio station has gotten into it as the two hosts give updates on their quest to catch ‘em all. It’s easy to see how Pokemon Go can be used as a force for good.

What’s even more amazing is what happened in Chicago just last Sunday when thousands of people spread the word through social media that there was going to be a Pokemon Go meet up at Millennium park. What ensued was a full day of Pokemon trainers coming together as one. Lures abound as everyone thought to buy some before going to the event and this allowed thousands upon thousands of Pokemon to spawn in. Trainers simply hung out and caught Pokemon to their heart’s content before heading home for the day. It’s incredible that in such a short amount of time so many people have come together around a mutual love for something so innocent yet so meaningful in the lives of millions as a video game.

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The Bean at Millennium Park!

Pokemon Go is poised to become one of the most popular mobile apps to have ever come out and it’s easy to see why. Combining the popularity of Pokemon as a long standing video game series with an activity that encourages real world exploration is a powerful concept that was perfectly executed. It’s bringing gamers out of their homes and into each other’s company in ways no other video game has done before and this brings so much pride as a gamer. Weird turf wars between the different factions aside, Pokemon Go is doing wonderful things I can only hope it continues to do so.

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