It’s 12:15 am. I’ve been prowling the streets near my home for 30 minutes and am about to call it quits when my phone dings with an alert. There's a Pokémon near, and I want it badly. Suddenly, my phone emits a sharp click. I glance down and I see it: a Bulbasaur. Finally. I've been searching for one for days.
I lift my screen. I ready my Pokéballs. I pray.
Welcome to the World of Pokémon Go
The location-based augmented reality mobile game has taken over my world and, well, almost the entire rest of the world too. It launched in the US on July 6th, in the UK on July 13th, and rolled out to 26 European countries over the weekend.
I'm a player of the original Pokémon game, a practice that mostly involved me chilling on the couch for hours, hitting buttons. But Pokémon Go doesn't isn't for couch potatoes. You have to move. (There's really not much to do if you don't!)
The Health Benefits of Playing Pokémon Go Are Real
This new version of Pokémon is a much healthier, much more engaging experience. I'm up, I'm out, I'm going places I've never been, having conversations I never would have had. A perfect example is this sign from my local Umani Burger, at left. I went in and talked with the bartender because of that sign (and got a deal, too).
And I’ve already dragged my girlfriend’s dog, Whoopie, along on tons of Pokéhunts. At first she loved the lengthy walks but now if I have my phone in my hand when I put on her harness, she actually sighs.
(Photo: Adam Pearson)
The Real World Experience of Playing Pokémon Is What Makes It Different.
Whoopie wasn’t with me on the night of my Bulbasaur find, but that kind of story is one of my favorite things about this game. And it's not just me, everyone has a story about an epic catch or a rare Pokémon escaping that’s firmly rooted in a real place, in the real world. The game has coaxed legions of Pokéhunters out into the open air and driven them relentlessly to Pokégyms and Pokéstops across the nation and now, internationally, too. And at the same time, it's created a community of gamers across generational lines who are actively engaging.
They’re meeting each other, starting conversations both online and in the real world, and doing so with a (mostly) positive point of view, which, as many gamers can attest to, can be rare in the online gaming community. Rare spawns are attracting people to parks in droves, restaurants and bars are offering everything from complimentary lures to discounts for famished hunters, and a few entrepreneurial souls have taken to the streets as Pokémon DDs who, for a hourly fee, will whisk you across your city on a grand safari, where you can finally bag that elusive Dratini or snare a Pikachu that’s been dodging you for days. Whereever you go, if you keep your eyes open you'll spot a fellow Pokémon hunter out on the trail or resting from a hunt. You can share stories, trade tips, or just offer a silent nod, but you'll know you’re in the company of comrades.
The Integration of Gaming and Exercise
Issues like server hacks, the rise of the Pokéconomy, or now resolved privacy invasions aside, the game is solid, fun, and engaging, making good on an elusive promise game developers have been trying to deliver for years: the integration of video gaming and exercise.
From Nintendo’s Wii Fit, to countless home workout titles for Playstation and XBOX consoles, not to mention the various attempts that came before, the idea of fitness gaming has been attempted before, but almost always as a living room activity. Anyone who has played other physically engaging video games has likely experienced how quickly those games can be played passively, and games with similar interface styles that aren’t even specifically designed for exercise purposes fall into this trap. If you've ever jammed out a perfect Rock Band score while slouching on the couch or pounded out a DDR run with your hands while sitting on the floor next to the mat, you'll know what I’m talking about.
Pokémon Go won’t turn you into a triathlete and it won’t necessarily make the world a better place (though I’m not ruling that last one out), but it will get you up, it will get you out, and the health benefits of even that small additional burst of both physical and social activity is a plus.
And if it gets you a Scyther or an Alakazam, for god's sake, call me and tell me exactly where they’re spawning. They’re next on my list and I’ve been looking all week.
So you've tried (or are now about to try) the fitness trend that's Pokémon Go. Here's others you won't want to miss:
Tell us in the comments: What health or wellness experiences have you or your friends had with Pokémon Go?