Pokémon Kept GOing

The biggest thing in my planner today was how I needed to take my car into the shop so the mechanic could give it a check-up. What a perfect opportunity to keep playing Pokémon GO like the ridiculous human being that I am!

I have leveled up in my gameplay, and experienced broader play elements now.

Firstly, my spouse and I took over a gym, extremely briefly. It took several fights to do so. To take over a gym, you have to lower the gym’s “prestige” first. It’s like you’re chipping away at the hold another team has over the gym. Failure is a common and arguably even necessary part of this progress. It is definitely easier to take over a gym when you work together, and possibly easier to hold onto it, too. This part of the game is better with a buddy!

Secondly, the game really encourages walking. No wonder that’s the most-talked about aspect of the game on social media! You can get closer to many spots and gyms by walking than you can with a vehicle. Also, driving in a vehicle, even at 35mph, takes you past most spots too quickly for you to have an interaction with them. Also, you hatch your Pokémon eggs by walking. Even a little bit at a time helps. It occurred to me that I didn’t mind parking a little farther away from a destination if I had my game going. That’s a tenth of a kilometer closer to hatching a Jigglypuff, dudes! My deepest hope is that this will inspire more people to return their carts/buggies to proper locations at the grocery store, which is one of my biggest pet peeves.

Thirdly, I wonder whether this game might help us teach our children how to talk to strangers. “Stranger danger” and “don’t talk to strangers” is a deep-seated but misguided attempt at keeping children safe. I wonder whether Pokémon GO can help us teach children when and where and how to interact with people they don’t know. When I see kids playing the game, I usually see a parent with them or very close by. This could be an excellent opportunity for modeling a lot of positive, safe behavior. It could be as simple as asking another player what team they picked to start a conversation. Of course, you want to look out for “tricky people” playing the game, just as you would in any context. Real life rules still apply.

Related to that, parents also have the opportunity to model how to cross streets safely, how to look out for traffic, and so on. City kids might know that stuff intrinsically by now, but not everyone does.

There does seem to be an imbalance between areas of high interaction (having Pokéstops and gyms) and areas of low interaction. At least in my city, the historically less privileged part of town is severely lacking in interactive spots. The park there doesn’t even have a Pokéstop, much less a gym! The local university is lit, though. My understanding is that the map was largely ported from a previous AR release. So the dearth of spots in one neighborhood vs. the glut of spots in another probably speaks to the demographics of who played that other game. Also, many landmarks are outdated. On the left is how one Pokéstop appears in the game. On the right is how it actually looks as of now. Where did that sculpture go?

Like Minecraft, the game itself doesn’t give you all the best details on how to play it. This forces players to either learn by trial and error, or seek out resources. Those resources might be other people or online searches. These days, there are a lot of Minecraft books in the library kids can use too. I wonder whether Pokémon GO might head in this direction, inspiring kids to pick up books and read more about something that interests them.

For what it’s worth, I have always enjoyed video games, from a very young age. Pokemon was a big thing when I was in middle school and high school. (It wasn’t cool to like Pokemon in high school, but that didn’t make me like it any less at the time.)

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