Life On the Other Side

How Pokémon Go! Accomplishes What Nagging Can’t


Like most, I was surprised how quickly and widely a video game has taken hold of our youth. My house had its share of the cards and licensed toys and I watched enough of the cartoon television show with my kids to know the basics of how it works. I was not surprised at the reaction to the game itself; after all, it has been long enough since the cards were introduced that the idea is a bit nostalgic for young adults.

I am, however, amused at how many people have gotten caught up in the craze and the wide range in the player demographics. Though I see there is a potential for problems, at this point, the game has positive benefits that (at least for now) outweigh my concerns that it can become an issue down the road.

Exercise is required

Part of the game requires walking a certain distance to hatch an egg. Though some people are playing in cars (hopefully while others are driving), you have to drive slowly or the app doesn’t recognize the movement. Driving does not always allow you to get close enough to the treasured PokéStops, and you can’t battle a gym while moving, so walking is the preferred method.

Teens are getting outside

This is an age group notorious for spending hours indoors, attached to screens. Though the game still has them looking at a screen, they are doing so outdoors, often during daylight hours. Studies show the benefit to spending time outdoors, both physical and psychological. Studies indicate that being outdoors (especially in nature) can help reduce anxiety and depression. One can hope that at some point, they may look around and see there is more of an interest outdoors than they first realized and make time spent outdoors a habit.

Spoken communication is making a comeback

Though it is not required, this has been a happy side effect of the craze. Young people are out in public looking at their phones, but they are actually talking to each other! In the past week, I have seen more people walking around outdoors than perhaps ever before. I have been impressed with their friendliness and attitude. Though they are attached to their phones, when they lift their heads (which is happening with greater frequency), I am not seeing the stereotypical sullen teens, but instead smiling faces, acknowledging my existence.

It encourages travel possibilities

Though I can certainly think of better reasons to explore other areas of your city or state, if this is the only way to get teens up and out of the house without a fight, I’ll take it. One feature of the game is that some Pokémon are specific to certain areas (such as water Pokémon are found near bodies of water). This means that in order to “catch them all,” you need to actively pursue a change of scenery.

Increased spatial awareness is necessary

You have to pay attention or you will miss out on that rare and elusive Pokémon. You also need to maintain an awareness of your surroundings to keep you alive when hunting near roadways. Though there have been news reports of tragic accidents, the players I talk to say they are careful and aware of their surroundings.

Cultural and educational venues are benefiting

I am seeing many posts from museums and zoos pointing out that Pokémon can be found at their location. Some are even hosting special events. If this can encourage teens to visit a place that has the potential to broaden their cultural awareness, it’s a plus. Many libraries are hot spots too. Maybe some bargaining is in order: teens can visit if they take out a book.

Summer is a time to be frivolous

I am relieved that the game was unleashed during the summer break from school. I expect that much of the novelty will wear off by the time classes resume. Given the popularity, especially with the 20-something set, I think the game will continue but that it will not be as all-consuming a month from now. Hopefully teachers are taking this time to prepare for that possibility and, like educational venues, finding ways to incorporate it into their plans.

Phone batteries eventually drain

Some people are now making a habit of carrying power packs around just for this unfortunate event, but they too have their limits. Then you can have a conversation about how they spent their day. Just be prepared to smile and nod as they speak gibberish.

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