Less than a month ago the infamous Pokemon Go game came out and the world rejoiced. Kinda. Some people really don’t like it. But I am not one of those people anymore.
I had no idea what it really was when it was about to launch. I knew what a Pokemon was even though I’ve never watched the show, and I had seen some of my friends posting about the game on Facebook. When it finally came out I heard all about the fun everyone was having and also all of the complaints everyone else had. Such as, “You kids get out of my yard!” and “Don’t walk into traffic with your eyes glued to your phone!”.
A week after the release I had dinner with my friend from college, Travis, and he gave me the low-down on the game. I began to see it wasn’t just a game you could place on your phone, but one where you psychically had to go somewhere. Our other friend from college, Scott, showed up after dinner and they both ditched me to go hunt Pokemon.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“Well get the game,” Scott said. “It’s free. What else have you got to do?”
“I’m playing Neko Atsume!” I said proudly and got my phone out to show him. )If you are unaware, Neko Atsume is a Japanese cat game that is basically Crazy Cat-Lady the Game.)
“See? You put out food and these cats come and leave you fish so you can buy more food and toys! And they also leave presents ! You have to take pictures of all the cats and collect all their gifts. Isn’t cute?”
Scott frowned at my phone filled with cute computerized cats and then slowly looked back at my beaming, happy face. “Wow,” he finally said, “See, this is why you actually need Pokemon Go.”
“I don’t want to go all over the place looking for Pokemon. They should just come to me like my kitties do. It should be Pokemon Come-To-Me.”
“Well its called called Pokemon Go-To-Them,” Travis added and I was then unceremoniously dumped for that evening.
The next run-in I had with Pokemon Go was at my boyfriend’s place the following weekend. We were watching TV when his roommate came home from a party looking tired and ragged, as if he’d been run over by a bus a few times, but had the facial expression that it was all totally worth it. He started towards his room upstairs, telling us he was going to sleep for a week, but then 5 mins later he came racing back through the living room looking much more alive.
“There’s a Pokemon at the mailbox!” he cried as he darted out the front door.
I was amazed that free app game could cause this much excitement, and even more surprised at the amount of hate for the game on social media. I got to see both sides of the argument but really liked how it seemed to be helping people with depression. It was getting people outside and enjoying being with a group of people that they didn’t really have to talk to since they were hunting Pokemon.
Then, a week ago I saw the results first hand. I met up with some friends that I hadn’t seen since the game came out and I noticed a huge change in one of my friends. She had been struggling with depression for most of the year, but this time she seemed to have a bit of a spark back in her eyes. She and another friend were talking about their trip to a park to hunt Pokemon and what had happened at a Pokemon Go meetup. I didn’t say anything but I was secretly excited that she seemed to be getting outside again – and she looked fitter as well.
I asked her and another friend more about the game and they excitedly told me about it – how they had gone to parks and done all this walking to hatch Pokemon eggs.
“What do I do when I get the Pokemon? Do I have to take care of them?” I asked.
“No. It isn’t a Tamagotchi or virtual pet,” they said.
“Do I have to love them?”
One of my friends thought that was incredibly amusing. “No, this isn’t like the TV show. Just throw balls at them.”
Not having to take care of the Pokemon finally sealed the game for me and I downloaded it. And then I have no idea what I was doing for a few hours. I walked around my neighborhood a bit, but no Pokemon live near me. I contacted my college friends, Travis and Scott, to see when they were going hunting again. Luckily they were going the next night and I agreed to join them at a local park.
When we got to the park I saw more people than I have ever seen playing on their phones and talking about Pokemon. And I’m not just talking about kids – there were all different ages, races, and classes of people playing. Big, tough looking guys were prowling around looking for a Bulbasaur, little kids were chasing after Rattatas and Pidgeys, college kids were looking for Charamanders, and elderly people were scanning the lake area for Magikarp.
I had never seen anything like this. I quickly took out my phone, listened to my friends’ sagely advice (“Just lob balls at the imaginary monsters”), and went hunting. And had a lot of fun doing so. Since I was level 2 I only got the lower level Pokemon, but I quickly learned to enjoy the search. We ended up walking 3 miles around the park and were out until our phones died.
That weekend, when I saw my boyfriend Mike, he noticed me hovering over my phone while he was playing a computer game.
“Kitty game?” he asked as he made multiple clicks on the keyboard and mouse to make his character attack.
“Pokemon Go,” I said and then held up my phone for him to see, “You don’t live in a Pokemon infested area either.”
He looked over at me and frowned, “Damn it. Not you too.”