We've all seen them - the hordes of people both young and old filling the local parks, smart phones in hand pointing at creatures that aren't really there. And if by some miracle (or a complete lack of awareness of your surroundings) you haven't noticed the people, I'm sure you've seen the memes flooding the various social media outlets almost as much as the parks are being flooded.
Pokemon Go: the latest craze to sweep through the population.
Pokemon Go is a new interactive game for smart phones that uses your GPS location to place Pokemon in areas near you so you can "catch" them. Cleverly combining the real world with this virtual world, a Pokemon will appear on your phone screen, and tapping on it activates the camera feature on your phone placing the real surroundings of the area you're standing in behind the digital Pokemon on your screen. In addition to catching Pokemon, the game also encourages users to find Pokestops and Pokegyms where they can collect items and "battle" their Pokemon against others.
However, despite the number of people who are obviously loving the game, as with anything there are plenty of critics as well. Now, I'm all for critics because I think they challenge our thoughts and force creative thinking on both sides of the coin. However, while I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, I have never had any tolerance for criticism in the form of cruelty and bullying, and recent criticisms have me wondering: When did we start shaming adults for tapping into their creative and playful side?
If you do a quick internet search for self -help programs you will find any number of programs that focusing on helping adults tap into their playful side. You see, adults seem to have forgotten how to play... or perhaps they have just been shamed out of playing, and my question is, WHY? "Play" is important and, believe it or not, it supports us in our success because play involves the imagination, something that is crucial in creative thinking. If you have no imagination or imaginative skills, you will find it very difficult to think outside the box, and to be an innovator or a trail blazer in any industry, you must be able to think outside the box.
With that in mind, even though it may feel silly, going out and participating in this craze of catching imaginary creatures on your phone can actually help you toward your goals of success!
Even if you are one of those adults who is out of touch with their inner child and doesn't understand play anymore, I can easily think of plenty of other reasons why this game is great! Let's start with the kids. I believe all parents are familiar with the struggle of getting their kids to log off the video games to go outdoors and play. Just today I read a Facebook post from a friend of mine saying she missed HER version of childhood when all the neighborhood kids would jump on their bikes and ride around the neighborhood until well past dark, just playing and adventuring. Now we're lucky if our kids want to meet up with their friends in person rather than in the virtual world of online games and texting.
Being a mother of two boys, ages 14 and 9, I can relate with this struggle as well, despite the fact that both of them are actively involved in martial arts, parkour and skating. However, over the last year or two it seems like if they are not at their scheduled weekly practices, they are chained to their gaming devices indoors and getting them to go outside to play is a fight none of us particularly want to engage in. Part of this struggle also comes from them being five years apart in age. With one still in elementary school and the other entering high school this year, there are not many shared interests between the two boys.
Enter Pokemon Go.
Now both of the boys are out and about both together and individually with their friends roaming the neighborhood looking for Pokemon and laughing with their peers. It's as if parents and children have been served compromise on a silver platter. Score.
The game is also helping to bridge the technology gap between the generations of parent and child. Many adults don't understand the games their kids play and, let's face it even if they did, many of the games designed for the smart phone are not compatible for more than one person play so it's difficult to play the games together. However, Pokemon Go is so easy to play, kids can teach their parents within minutes and the entire family can go out to play together. Personally, I have enjoyed several Pokemon Go outings with my kids on evening walks and day long bike rides.
With the rapidly rising rate of obesity and diabetes in America, how can anyone not see the advantages to a game that promotes physical activity? Remember when the Nintendo Wii came out? Parents were thrilled and even participating themselves. Here was a gaming device that forced the player to physically engage with the game! Is this so different?
According to State of Obesity, the latest data suggests that the majority of Americans are either overweight or obese. 13.9% of high school students are obese, and another 16% are overweight. These are kids for goodness sake! Their adult lives and overall quality of life are going to suffer as a result. More than 115 million adults in America are either diabetic or prediabetic, and that's just the adults! The rate of diabetes in children has increased so much that Type II diabetes, which was once called "adult onset diabetes" because it typically didn't surface until adulthood, is now simply referred to as Type II diabetes once more because of the number of children being diagnosed with the disease. This is extremely sad because Type II diabetes is easily avoided with proper nutrition and physical activity!
So while many kids found a way around being physically active with the Nintendo Wii (they discovered you didn't have to actually stand up and could instead just sit where you wanted and simply wave your arm around to still make the game work), Pokemon Go is impossible to play without getting out and about. You have to be standing at a close distance in order to catch the Pokemon, activate the Pokestops or play at the Pokegyms.
Even the inclusion of the Pokestops and Pokegyms is brilliant in my opinion. Pokestops are areas where you can collect items that assist in playing the game such as extra Pokeballs to catch the Pokemon, and Pokegyms are areas where the player can battle against other Pokemon. Both are typically located at major parks and city landmarks. One of the local Pokestops in my neighborhood is at the Arvada Center for the Art and Humanities, a performing arts facility with a large open space in front that in recent years has been the home of many unique sculptures. However, since the placement of these sculptures I have personally never seen anyone actually visiting them until the introduction of Pokemon Go. Now adults and children alike are walking through this field of sculptures catching Pokemon and whether they were originally there for the art or not, you can be assured they are now being introduced to new forms of art. Another Pokestop is the Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, a local Arvada wildlife refuge that has protected native flora, fauna and wildlife ever since residential and commercial construction has increased in the area. Again, this is a place many locals aren't even aware of despite efforts by the Two Ponds Preservation Foundation to raise awareness. I personally think Pokemon Go has been great for introducing locals to the world they live in.
And just a quick note here, that if you are one of those people who believes Pokemon Go is a government conspiracy to control the masses or distract from other current events, let me tell you this. Media in general distracts the masses from current events and all media outlets whether they are supposed to be or not, are biased and will present the information they want to present in a way that serves their own agendas. After all, even this article is written from my biased perspective.
And the camera feature of the game that so many people think is a way for the government to spy on us and collect intel... IF that is what is really going on here, don't you think they would have already accomplished that agenda with all the permissions we already grant the various applications we use to access our camera feature and photos? Let's be real, the people who would be hired to collect intel for the government are probably a lot trickier about it than we think. If they want it done, I feel pretty safe saying it is already being done.
So what is all this criticism really about? Is it because we as adults are scared to play? Perhaps, but there is more to the story here I think because even children are being ridiculed for playing the game. One recent explosion I have heard is an outrage over the game "forcing" children to play in the streets, and while I am very sorry for any children that have gotten injured while playing the game, that is not a fault that can be placed on the game and is instead a displacement technique to avoid accepting responsibility for poor choices. When I was little and playing catch in my front yard, my parents taught me that if my ball rolled out into the middle of the street I was under no means allowed to simply run out in the middle of the street to go catch it. I was warned of the dangers of going into the street without looking both ways. If I chose to ignore my parents and ran out into the middle of the street anyhow and gotten hurt as a result, the ball or the manufacturers of the ball certainly never would have been blamed. After making sure I was alright, my parents would have promptly blamed me and used the situation as a means to reiterate the lesson on why I should never enter the street without looking both ways.
Another frustration I have heard is from home owners that children are entering their yards in pursuit of Pokemon without asking permission. Again, this is not an issue that needs to be blamed on the game! I think this is an issue that needs to be acknowledged by families and handled within the home on addressing manners. I can remember many a Halloween night trick-or-treating and getting scolded by my parents for walking across someone's lawn rather than taking the long way and walking up their driveway instead. Trespassing on other people's property is a matter of basic manners that needs to be addressed by parents. Instead of using Pokemon Go as a scapegoat to avoid basic parenting, I believe parents need to take responsibility for teaching manners and the neighbors who are just as guilty of blaming the game, need to take responsibility for approaching the parents. Sure it's easier to simply blame the game and probably less uncomfortable than approaching the parents of the offending child, but nothing is going to get resolved.
I once rode my bicycle across our neighbor's lawn because hey, it was quicker than spending the extra two seconds it would have taken me to ride around to our driveway and I was a seven year old kid with important things to do! Our neighbors approached my parents about it, who then approached me about it and as a result, I never rode my bike through anyone's lawn again. This is basic chain of command here.
And if you're an ADULT entering another person's property in search of Pokemon, well come on guy, you have no excuse. Just stop being an inconsiderate asshole. It's that simple. The same thing goes for those 16 years of age and older who are playing Pokemon Go while driving. We ALL know we aren't supposed to text and drive. Why would anyone think playing a game on our phones while driving is any more acceptable? It's not. If you're behind the wheel, drive. The game can and will wait.
Again though, traffic incidents that are occurring because people are playing Pokemon Go should not be blamed on the game. That should be blamed on the individual because the people who are playing Pokemon Go while driving are the same people who would play any game while driving and THAT is the root issue.
In reality, Pokemon Go is an innovative way to encourage physical activity, unite families, get kids outdoors being kids again, spark the imagination, and introduce people to the cities they live in. Any issues that are arising as a result of poor choices while playing the game shouldn't be blamed on the game, but instead should be blamed on the individual not practicing common sense or on the reality that all families could stand to focus on teaching manners inside the home a little more. If we want to get upset about something, there are plenty of real world issues that we could focus on instead of getting worked up over a game. Choose wisely where you invest your emotional energy.
A lover of words, magic, and the idea of changing the world by encouraging the pursuit of one dream at a time. Living the dream myself as a professional boxer, kickboxer, and MMA fighter.