For those who have somehow not already been caught up in the massive wave of Pokemania which has just begun to wash away what was left of modern society let me lay it out for you. Pokémon GO, the mobile Pokémon Altered Reality game, was just released and people have descended upon it with the vigor of a drowning man grasping for the edge of a boat. The game has been out at least 24 hours depending on where you live and it has been the talk of the town, blowing up on all the social media platforms and agitating people who are not fans of the series who are already tired of hearing about it after a single bombastic evening.
There have been a few hindrances such as the games AR function not being available in battle to people who do not have gyroscopes on their phone as well as some other unfortunate folks to whom the same situation is a sad and inexplicable mystery, as well as the servers being constantly overloaded in many areas by the mass of rabid fans attempting to play the game at the same time, but these minor inconveniences aside the reception of the somehow free game amongst the community has generally been beyond favorable, with many people finding that they now have a new addiction.
Two such people are my Wife and I. We both downloaded Pokémon GO the day before yesterday and the servers allowed us to finally play late that evening. And when I say late that evening what I really mean is about midnight. We are both night people by nature so this was alright by us. Starting Pokémon GO late at night also carried the distinct advantage of having us not cook alive in the hundred-degree Florida sun while we walked about trying to collect digital monsters.
We got setup in our house and then spent a few minutes walking down our street catching ‘mons. Our goal at this point was to reach our first Pokéstop, which if you haven’t played the game yet, is just a local waypoint. It is often some type of landmark or interesting object which you can get free items from when you are in close proximity to. But they are more than that. Between the Pokéstops, the gyms, and the need to walk about in order to increase your odds of finding new monsters Pokémon GO has succeeded at something that Nintendo has been trying to do since they introduced the NES Power Pad; it incentivizes players to go outside and get exercise. And it does so in a way so ingenious that it has revolutionized what I feel video games have the potential to accomplish. This little, unassuming mobile title does much more than get people up and moving, it has the ability to transform the way we understand and interact with the world around us. Let me give you an example:
Some time after our initial foray into our locale clime my Wife and I decided we should combine work and play. We loaded up our laundry and headed to the Laundromat with the express intention of leaving the clothes to wash and then dry as we explored this section of our town on foot in the hopes of finding more video game treasures. We arrived sometime between one and two in the morning and got to hoofing it. There were several Pokéstops relatively close together and so we headed in that direction. We ended up across the street wandering through the parking lot of a deserted shopping center with which we were quite familiar. We frequent many of the businesses there and still the identity of the landmarks at said waypoints baffled us.
The first one was a wash. On our maps, we were told that there should be a silhouette of a skating woman somewhere on or near this particular restaurant but no matter how much we circled the thing we could not locate it. It was likely painted over at some point. So we moved on to the second Pokéstops, and lo and behold we found it. Entitled Dancing Kids, all this Pokéstops was, in reality, was a small window cling type decoration on a local Asian restaurant. But I was ecstatic to find it. I had never seen this little tiny thing before and the act of finding it was exhilarating in a wonderful, subtle way. I even took a picture of it. And as my Wife and I traveled back to our now washed clothing we discussed this turn of events.
I have felt this way so little in my adult life it was literally astounding that a free app could make me feel the wonder of exploration at discovering little-unnoticed details in our local area. I normally only get to experience this particular type of love of the world around me when I happen to be able to scrape together enough petty cash to get my Wife and I a vacation in a new part of the world.
We felt like we were ten again, just wandering through parking lots and grassy knolls enjoying the atmosphere of our town as well as actually enjoying the pleasant experience of exercising, all the while catching more Pokémon. By triggering the release of Dopamine that my brain associates with catching new pocket monsters and literal exploration this unassuming game has literally incentivized us to exercise, and it goes beyond that because we were not only being active but we were thoroughly in love with doing so.
It really is an ingenious scheme. Many nerd type folks are, like me, quite overweight, and have had much trouble or at least little success in losing any of that mass. But this game understands why so many of us stopped exercising and makes that same reason the device by which we start again: I play tons of video games because I have a deep wanderlust. I love exploring new places and having deep and wonderful experiences and as a child I hadn’t seen ten thousand parking lots and I didn’t have the major street names of my town memorized but as I got older the common world in which we all reside became less interesting as I became more familiar with my mundane surroundings, and so I retreated inside, into digital worlds so that I could continue to explore. Pokémon GO gives me back the joy of exploring my surroundings by offering rewards for doing so in the form of Pokémon. And it gives these now common locations a fresh layer of intrigue by showing me new things about them. For instance:
We stopped at a gas station before going home. In the gas station parking lot I saw a Pokéstop named Charlie. It looked like a statue of Charlie Chaplin sitting down and being sad. I went into the store and of course the clerk knew nothing about it. In the picture, it seemed to be inside, and the environment looked nothing like this gas station which I had been coming to for years… so where was Charlie? There are a lot of small local business right near that gas station and I need to see this damn statue. So I will be going back during the daytime to enter those businesses and locate this statue. I am a very inquisitive person and yet still with the banality of daily life I became less curious about my town and in a single evening, Pokémon GO put within me a burning urge to explore the lands around me and beyond, something I haven’t cared about this intensely since perhaps before puberty. Pokémon GO changed the way I view this world which surrounds me. I don’t think any other game has ever done this to me, and even though I know much of this comes from the Pokémon with which the game concerns itself it really makes me wonder: If Pokémon GO can have this much of an impact on me, one which will likely continue as they introduce PVP battling, trading, and newer generations of Pokémon, then what can future AR games possibly do to us? I can’t wait to find out.
Have you already lost 200 pounds thanks to Pokémon GO? Did you run into a friend you haven’t seen in forever while they were also walking down by the pier looking for Pokémon (I know I did)? Have you accidentally hurt yourself or got in trouble while exploring? Do you think Pokémon GO is dumb and stupid? We here at www.thenerdstash.com would really love to hear from you. If you have a minute tell us your story in the comments section below.