Assuming you're not living in the dark ages or a hermit that avoids all communication technology, you've probably heard something about Pokémon Go.

It's some sort of game, right? Well, yes. But it's different than many other games as it forces players to get off their couch and go outside. You can't do some things without a lot of walking or having the game open while driving.


So there's a potential problem. People playing while driving. But how prevalent is it actually? Is it happening more than texting and driving? More than drinking and driving? We've already seen highway signs reminding people not to play while driving, which I think is an excellent example of proactivity on the part of the government. It's dangerous to simply use your GPS while driving. Those few seconds of distraction are all it takes to kill yourself or someone else.

There are other things happening. Some are bad and some are fake

Anyone who played Ingress will know that many of the locations in Pokémon are actually national monuments. This is causing a problem in certain areas where there will never be an appropriate time to be a gamer trampling over the graves of soldiers and the like. And it may not continue to be an issue as some of those places are petitioning for their locations to be removed from the game.

Societal Benefits

A couple of black men, a 40-something white guy, and a cop found each other in a park in the wee hours and no one got shot

Don’t think it’s so amazing? Well in the midst of what seems an almost hopeless situation where police and black men often end up meeting and someone ends up dead, I think it’s an excellent example of how much people share despite perceived differences. I think it provides hope for the future.

People are talking to other people that they don’t know already. Communities are becoming actual communities. I spoke to a man the other night at the library Pokéstop near my home. (A Pokéstop is a place to get items like balls to capture more Pokémon). Yes, we only talked about Pokémon, but as he lives near me, who knows? It could be the start of a friendship or something more.

Physical Benefits

P-Go, Poké-Go, PoGo, whatever your nickname for it is (I like P-Go), is also helping people get off their butts and go walking. As a martial artist, I like to think my legs are in decent shape given that I'm regularly doing squat-like or lunge-like exercises. While the muscles used in the martial arts I practice are in decent shape, P-Go has taught me that there are other lower body muscles that I haven't been working out as much as I should. The muscles on the tops of my feet, my calves, and my shins are all being engaged. It's probably engaging my quadriceps too, though those are in better shape so I haven't noticed those hurting. My butt muscles are also slightly tender. This may help reverse the obesity epidemic and prevent the onset of diabetes. I know I’m snacking less at night because I just feel better.

Emotional Benefits

We live in a world that is constantly bombarded with news about death, murder, diseases like cancer. This world involves shootings, stabbings, vandalism, assaults, etc. It has been a scary place for a while and many haven't wanted to leave their homes. I grew up in the 80s and 90s where we ran about the neighbourhood playing hide-and-seek; a world where we hardly stayed indoors. P-Go is getting people out interacting with our neighbours; we're discovering parks we didn't know existed. People might actually find their soul mate beside a Pikachu.

I know my mood is better. I was there at the beginning of Pokémon on TV. It's been over a decade since I first heard the song yet I recalled the words without hesitation. Hearing them once again as I watched the show for old time's sake filled me with excitement and happiness.

Why It’s Popular

Yes, part of this whole thing is about nostalgia. Some of us are getting to catch Pokémon in the real world, which is something we dreamed about as children. But Pokémon is full of cute pocket monsters. Some of which you raise from eggs by walking. You have to feed them treats to level them. It's almost like having a bunch of virtual pets. Remember those?

Pokémon has always had one of the most epic intros for a cartoon.

For others, it is a new way to use GPS technology.

For yet others, it isn't new at all. Those of us that played Ingress or those that Geocache were already doing this. Ingress often puts you by a national monument and since Pokémon Go is built off of that platform, Pokémon is putting people there too but Ingress wasn't as wildly popular. This means Pokémon is also encouraging people to learn some of the history of their country. Now, geocaching has always been done in a more tasteful way. Caches aren't placed in wildly inappropriate places though a monument might form part of a clue that leads to the cache and some may be uncomfortably close to CSIS for my liking. For more on geocaching, check out this article.

You can also create fun memes and memories with your friends. One of mine had a rather glum look on his face. Sure enough, there was a Caterpie there that he couldn't see. I saved him from it ;)

How to Do Better

I think people just need to be smart with it. Be aware of people who will try to take advantage of this. Don't walk out into highways. Don't walk into lakes. If something is spawning in such a dangerous location, contact the developers to inform them that there is a location issue. As mentioned above, don't drive and play. And don't be a crappy human by destroying the property of others to get a Pokémon.

Here's a tip, you don't need to keep your eyes glued to your phone while playing it. It will vibrate to let you know there is a Pokémon to capture and otherwise you can periodically check if something is nearby or to check that you're walking in the right direction.

Long before any of this, I walked while reading books. I was able to pay attention to my surroundings while doing this. Indeed, few people complain if they see someone reading and walking. Books are viewed as an intellectual activity and video games are often decried as being a pastime of the intellectually inferior.  Check your prejudice here. Many highly strategic outfits such as militaries use simulations, which are basically video games, to train their soldiers. One of my marketing courses employed a video game to teach us to apply our skills

The Future

For all of those out there who are complaining that people are enjoying themselves with a video game, winter is coming...

Until then, it might yet make a showing at the Olympic Games if Rio de Janiero's mayor has anything to say about it.

Let’s hope that Niantic is open to making some waypoint alterations so people can continue to enjoy the game without causing hardship for veterans and holocaust survivors, to name a few.

Clearly, there are some kinks to be worked out but at the very heart of Pokémon is a message of working together to save the world. This positive message is something I feel is needed right now. 

Published by Raeanne Roy