Pokémon Go – The Good, the Bad – Actually, Only the Good. And a Little of the Ugly.

About a month ago, my 11 year old daughter asked me if it was ok to download this game called Pokémon Go off the app store. I shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?” The next morning, she asked if I could walk her over to camp about 30 minutes prior to it starting. As I stared at her quizzically, she sighed and told me that she wanted to catch some Pokémon in the park as there were a lot of PokéStops there and some of them had lures. Rather than have her explain to me the meaning of at least 7 words in that last sentence, I decided to download the app myself and wandered over to the park with her. At the park, as we were wandering to one of these so called PokéStops (I start craving ahi tuna poke every time someone mutters that word),pokemon01 this woman looks over at us from her phone and says “Hey, are you guys playing Pokémon?” We said yes and talked/walked with her for the next 30 minutes as she explained some of the intricacies of the game as we had just started and she, apparently, had been playing for the past few days.

Here are some of the things I have learned, experienced, encountered, pondered on while I have been playing Pokémon Go:

  • Connection: I have met more neighbors in the past month while playing Pokémon Go than I have living here over the past four years. By more, I mean exponentially more. I’ve met over 70 people that I recognize by face that I say hello to on a regular basis, because, you know, we walk a lot in that little neighborhood park of ours, and I’ve seen even more that I recognize and nod to because they’re always around, have hit level 35 and have more Snorlaxes (is that the correct plural form of Snorlax?) than I would even know what do with.pokemon03So, in my mind, they’re a local celebrity that take down gyms and get their usernames to be recognized all over Redwood City!  pokemon04Oh, and that woman I met playing Pokémon Go in the park with my daughter, she has now come to my yoga class, I’ve met her kids and husband and we’re friends on Facebook! I’ve also read some amazing stories about connection, especially one about  strangers with anxiety meeting and realizing that a “Pokemon game has become a helpful tool in their dealing with anxieties and phobias”,
  • Health: Personally, I’ve walked/run 100k in the last 2 weeks. I know some people who, anecdotally, have hit their 10000 steps/day (fitbit fitness challenge),pokemon05even doubled or tripled them. Some who have gone on lengthy walks with their dogs – 6 times a day or more. Others who have lost 5 lbs in the first week the game came out.  Etc… So, from a health and getting outdoors perspective, it’s pretty cool. The game is designed to be played out in the real world and you have to, literally, get off your butt and GO outdoors to progress in the game. It’s not just about finding the little and not so little creatures out in the wild, when traveling through the game you will encounter “eggs” that need to be “hatched” and you hatch them by walking. I’ll now take a walk over to the sandwich place or the grocery store. I’ll even go out for more evening walks to the playground with my young daughters than I used to. My habits are slowly starting to change and I feel it’s for the better, even though I do stare at a screen every now and then but I do tend to make a conscious effort to not pay as much attention to the little screen when I’m around my little ones.
  • The metric system: Americans are finally learning the metric system. There was a spike in google searches in the US (as you can see below) of people looking to convert km to miles. The data is available here on Google Trends too.pokemon_googletrendsThe interesting thing is that there was a sharp decline right after the huge spike which leads me to believe that people are actually now doing the calculations in their head. Take that with a grain of salt, or maybe an ounce, or perhaps rather, a gram of salt.pokemon06 
  • Bad (or ugly) game design: The user interface of the game is really not that great and I’m still not sure whether it was intended to be that way, or was a fortuitous oversight by the designers of the game. Because of this “feature” (you’re welcome Microsoft) that would almost make it mandatory that you have to ask someone about how to use the PokéStop, where to find your “eggs”, how to make the PokéBall spin, what the evolve egg trick is really all about and what is going on with the tracking system (more on that later).
  • Family time: I’ve been seeing a ton of kids with their parents taking walks, lots of families, even couples in their 70s playing the game together. I met this couple a few days ago that gave me the excuse that they were playing the game because they knew their grandchild would be into it – now they’re level 22+ and have caught more than 95 Pokemon (I’m barely level 21 and have only caught 70 Pokémon, and I get the summer off!). Ok, so, it’s not really for the grandkid anymore, the woman told me, she’s got to catch them all!
  • Loving your hood: I’ve discovered quite a few hidden gems in my neighborhood ever since I started playing the game. There have been some great discoveries like the historical bell on El Camino Real that I had never noticed before, the memorial trees in Red Morton Park and even some really cool murals that were actually hidden from plain sight and I had to go down a side street to find them! For the uninitiated, many landmarks have now become PokéStops and you can go to these places, spin the wheel and get some loot.

  • The Good the Bad and the Pokémon: Yes, many bad things have happened to people while playing Pokémon Go that I do not need to list here as I’m sure you have read/heard about at least a few of them. I think that I need to go back to one of the sayings I use about technology, “It’s not the technology, it’s the behavior.” People will always get into trouble and people will always be distracted. We have to look at the habits and patterns that people are forming as they are using technology and not just blaming a specific game. And, it’s not just about technology, it’s about how you use it. So, go out there and catch your Pokémon, just be careful and look up once in a while…!
  • What’s next? I’ve seen a few people already touting their healthy AR, catch a monster healthy fitness for kid game. I’ve thought about a few ideas myself… What if there was the possibility of making it more interactive. What if there was a movie that was filmed on location and you had to go to the area it was filmed to see the actual movie and interact with the location in order to move to the next scene. I’m sure it’s been done before, because, there isn’t really a new idea out there, right? What do you think? Drop me a line or comment below!

Adnan Iftekhar