Pokémon GO has hit St. Louis like a summer storm. Everywhere I go, people are walking around, phones up, chasing rare Pokémon. Parks are teeming with people, even when the weather is in the 90s. Some folks worry that Pokémon GO might pose safety risks or security risks, but here is why I think this game is one of the best things that’s happened this summer.
1. Pokémon GO is helping me get fit!
I have been just killing my step count since downloading Pokémon GO. I hate exercising, and I usually average 7k or so steps each day, but Monday I got over 11k, and Tuesday 12k. By noon yesterday, I had gotten 6k steps. All of this movement is a very good thing. It’s easy to rail against video games and blame them for the obesity epidemic that plagues the US, but Pokémon GO requires you to get up and get moving. Today, I might be sore, but that means I am moving my body!
2. Pokémon GO is getting kids outside!
It’s summer. It’s hot. The Grasshopper would much rather be indoors reading a book or chilling in front of the TV than playing outside. Not so anymore. Now she begs me to go for walks in the afternoons. Instead of parking her butt on the couch or in her room, she wants to be outdoors, exploring. And she isn’t ignoring the natural world in favor of the game environment either. She’s started having fun spotting robins, sparrows, and the other critters we’ve got running around our neighborhood. She pretends they’re Tailow, Spearow, Rattata, and so forth. Even Cricket is getting into the action, jumping into the picture with the Pokémon we find.
3. Pokémon GO brings people together.
There are a ton of people at my office playing Pokémon GO, people I wouldn’t normally talk to or interact with. It’s not hard to spot them if you’re in the know. They’re walking along, phones in hand, or pausing at the PokéStop conveniently located right in the middle of our office. It’s been fun striking up conversations with folks. These are people who I haven’t said more than a hello or good morning to before, but now we’re talking best places to find Pokémon, who’s caught what, and how sore everyone’s legs are. There’s even talk of us all joining the same team to take on a gym near our office, and every so often, someone will call out over the cubicle walls, “Hey, there’s a venonat in the conference room.” or “Pikachu just out the side door!”
My coworkers and I are not unique. Everywhere I go on social media I find stories of people making new friends with this game. In the south where I grew up, it’s common to strike up a conversation with the people around you. In fact, it’s often considered rude not to make eye contact and say hello, even to strangers. Here in the midwest, the culture is a little different. Sure you talk to people you know, but not some rando. These days, folks are saying hi to each other, stopping to chat and exchange tips, and just generally being friendlier. We all need a little more of that right now.
4. Pokémon GO is getting teenagers excited!
Our neighborhood is full of families, so I’m used to seeing teens hanging out by the pool, walking the dog, and bumming around looking bored. What I’m not used to seeing is them running around with excited smiles on their faces. Pokémon GO seems to transcend the usual high school cliques, too. It’s not just the geeky kids playing. It’s everyone! It feels so good to see kids running around and just being kids. Childhood is so short, and seeing these teens, who are on the cusp of adulthood, giving up trying to act like adults and just have fun really does warm my heart.
5. Organizations are using Pokémon GOo to encourage people to help out in their communities.
This is the biggest thing to me. People are out walking and there are organizations like this animal shelter are jumping on the chance to encourage people to volunteer to walk their dogs.
A vet clinic got in on the Pokémon GO fun and encouraged people to stop by their office to get their pet spayed or neutered while visiting the PokéStop out front. Churches are opening their doors to Pokémon GO players and offering water, charging stations, and fellowship. I cannot, in my life, remember a time when a video game brought people together like this.
I’ve seen a fair bit of naysaying about Pokémon GO, but for us, this game has been fantastic. I’d encourage you all to give it a try. Soon you’ll be hooked, and your legs will be sore too!