Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Why Pokemon Go has my highest recommendations.

So...Pokemon Go.

Team Instinct here, for those players who might ask.

I could go on about the missing game mechanics like trading or battling other trainers directly.  I could write whole rambles about how this game is basically a fancy GPS with Geocache points on the map and a spreadsheet that currently only has the first gen pokemon critters.  Or how the ball throwing mechanic is basically a copy of those "put the paper in the trash can" apps combined with the catching luck of pokemon.

But over my first weekend playing it, I have realized that to boil Pokemon Go into such mechanics would be to completely discredit the real power of what Pokemon Go has done, seemingly overnight, nationwide.

This game, and it's positive effect on people as a whole, is simply put, amazing.

Last evening me and a couple siblings walked downtown.  It's got a lot of historical buildings, which become "loot" points in the game.  They refresh and players can also use items to make a beacon call that causes more pokemon to show up around that point.

The  main block downtown had players on nearly every street corner.  A few "hey you are on the other teams, we'll get you someday" rivalry comments was about as far as the supposed rival bashing went, despite a major take over of all the control points by a team during the evening.

Mostly people were passing on game tips and pointing out cool pokemon.  There were families there, kids and parents passing phones to play and take turns catching pokemon.  There were the 40-50 year olds, who grew up with Pokemon Yellow/Red/Blue back in their high school or grade school years.  There were teens, from the Black and White gen of games.  Fans of the anime, who've never played any of the video games.  And lots of players who didn't know what a Pokemon was till their friend roped them into this latest "free app for their phone".  Many were local, a few had driven to the block after discovering it through playing and meeting people there before.

Regardless of where they came from, the in game team color, genders, ages, race, or religions, everyone was polite and generally helpful to each other.  Everyone would look out for each other, keeping over eager players on the sidewalk or calling out when a rare pokemon showed up at a certain corner.  There was a spontaneous togetherness about the whole downtown, and even the random strangers walking by without the game were pleasantly surprised how polite and kind everyone was.

It was very wonderful to see everyone not only outside, but together, eager to greet new strangers, and just having a good time.  For the whole evening, and well into the night, everyone in the city finally had a common goal.

For once, we all put aside our differences and talked.  I had many conversations last night.  All started with "What team you on?" or "What pokemon are around here?" or "What's your strongest?".

But while they all started with the game, many drifted off elsewhere, such as the cool hidden historical monuments even locals had forgotten existed.  And a few touched on even harder subjects, like shootings, or race, or even a light conversation on religion.  No one was insulted or told their view was stupid.  We all had a glue, a common goal, a common thing that we could fall back onto if the conversations steered into strange or uncomfortable directions.  Everyone was here to have a good time playing Pokemon after all, first and foremost.

I, and probably the rest of the world, are still processing what has just happened overnight with the release of this game.  Suddenly everyone actually wants to go outside.  They want to see new places, to fully explore the parks and trails in their local area.  They are using maps and going to places they always drove by on the way to work, and taking the time to explore that area.  And in doing so, they find others, and connect with them.  Their first motivation may be just to catch that pokemon, but now that they are at that location, suddenly exploring the rest of the park doesn't feel so far away from home.  They end up stumbling on new hangouts they didn't know before, or meeting new people they never would have talked to otherwise.  Things outside the little game universe in their cell phone, that will last much longer then the little digital critters in their hand, and are just as precious.

People are outside, united with a common goal, and a little touch of friendly rivalry to keep each other motivated.  And the Pokemon game's brand and virtual world has reminded them all to value being civil, kind, and understanding of each other, while also giving them a common ice breaker subject to strike up conversations with.  One that doesn't involve a sensitive topic or a negative toned jab at anyone or anything.  Except maybe the virtual critters that have evaded their pokeballs.

I have no idea how this Pokemon Go thing will turn out in the future.  And I'm not saying it's all roses and sunshine.  There will always be those idiots who use it wrong or cause accidents because of the app.  And of course the entire USA's data plans have been slammed through the floor with it.

But I also see a lot of good coming from these little critters, and it reaches far more then the little phone screen.  People who normally would not talk to each other are instead sharing all the cool spots they've been to.  People are taking the whole family for an "evening walk", meeting other players and learning more about the neighbors around them, instead of sitting down to watch a movie or the news channels alone.

Best of all, the entire game is free to play, free to download, and doesn't suffer the geocache syndrome of having real life boxes that can be trolled by players/weather/nature/ect.  It's like Geocache 2.0, with so much more to it.

(Parents may want to take note of or disable the In App Purchases, the items sold can also be gotten/earned for free.  They are mostly boosting items that can be dropped rarely off collection points as well, and the currency can be earned by helping your team with control point battles.)

And so, I can only heartily recommend this game, to parents and kids alike.

Play responsibly, always be aware of your surroundings, and find some other family members to play with.  Enjoy your own pokemon adventures, and strive to catch em all, together, in the most world wide definition of the word.