After two weeks exploring, catching, and battling, here are Neal's thoughts on the mobile sensation.
I’ve spent the past two weeks of my life in a haze of Pokémon. I’ve barely touched any other games. Almost anything social I’ve done has involved catching Pokémon or capturing gyms. I went on a bike ride - that involved stopping every mile to catch a Psyduck or a Slowpoke. I went out to dinner - at a place next to a Pokéstop where I talked with friends as we merrily caught Pokémon. I went to the park with my dog - where we hung out by a gazebo that was a Pokéstop with other Pokémon Go players. I met up with a friend to hang out - and wander around a college campus to catch Pokémon and catch-up on life.
And while it’s a tad bit ridiculous that all this time spent with friends both old and new heavily featured our faces buried in phones, it’s all revealed Pokémon Go to be this beautiful social game that encourages others to work together and talk. “Did you find that Pikachu?” “Yea, it’s over by that gate.” “You find the Slowbro yet?” “Nope, but we checked over by that pond and it’s not there.”
Even the competitive aspect has been a source of light-hearted glee. Last night I biked around my hometown, stopping at the gyms along the way. I ran into another person doing the same thing, but he was on Team Valor instead of my beloved Mystic. Outside of some playful fist shaking, it was just amusing to see another person as lost in this world as me. So many people are lost in Pokémon Go. My 8-year-old niece is now catching her own critters. Friends of mine in their 30s are off snagging new Pokémon. I’ve seen a number of parents adventuring with their kids, even if the parents don’t know a Pidgey from a Spearow.
Online, I’ve come across a great deal of cynicism about this game. Walking around in real life, all I’ve found is near endless positivity (outside of like, a single cop who was clearly bothered by all these weird people loitering in parks). And on a personal level, I’m walking way more often than I usually do, which has led to me losing weight and just generally feeling healthier and better. Pokémon Go has been better for my health than Wii Fit ever was.
As of now, the app itself is still janky and buggy; it crashes a lot and the servers are butt. But that’s not really the reason why I’m so enraptured with Pokémon Go. I love it because it’s a conversation starter. I love it because it encourages and gamifies walking in a great way. I love it because it’s the full idealization of what Pokémon Red and Blue were pitched as when I was 10 years old. Now if you’ll excuse me, a Snorlax just appeared on my Nearby list and since the paw prints are buggy, that big boy ain’t gonna find himself.