Since its release, Pokémon GO offers countless players the chance to relive an age of nostalgia and it no doubt has taken the world by storm. My social media feeds are full of posts from friends I have not spoken with in years and yet I find myself excitedly messaging them with updates of my own Pokémon GO adventures. Connections I thought died out in the monotony of adulthood are suddenly thriving anew. And while I am enamored by the opportunity to reconnect with these fellow Pokémon trainers, I would have never begun to imagine the impact this free app would make for complete and total strangers. I have found myself walking the dogs outside, looking around, and seeing any number of individuals (all of varying ages) with their phones in the air and the declaration of, "There's a full grown Venomoth right over here!" and watching others crowd that corner of the park with such abandon you would think they were all ten years old again. But what does this joining of strangers mean for those of us with such interests?
We might begin to find a whole new realm in securing a Player 2, the significant other who harbors just as much interest in our geeky or nerdy hobbies, as boundaries and awkardness are broken down all in the name of revisiting this nostalgia or discovering Pokémon for the first time! I have watched complete strangers talk among themselves, exchange hopeful and excited smiles about planned adventures or meeting up back at the park in the future. Pokémon GO will ultimately change the dating game entirely and as a girl who is more than accustomed of having to gently ween my previous boyfriends into my hobbies, I have to believe Pokémon GO may very well be the game to make that transition all the more fun and entertaining.
For those of you who have decided to resist the allure of Pokémon GO or you have perhaps not yet heard what the game offers, Pokémon GO is a free app available on the Google Play store and iTunes store for mobile users. Utilizing your phone's GPS Navigation system and Location, Pokémon GO takes your real world and uses your phone as though it were a personal window into the world of Pokémon. After designing your trainer and receiving some advice by the enigmatic Professor Willow, you are instructed to "catch them all". And I do mean "all" the Pokémon you come across. There does not appear to be any end-point of this game given the virtualized reality it provides and you're left to your own resources to capture Pokémon that appear in real time through your phone's camera. I thought it appropriate to provide a visual representation of some of the more common Pokémon you might encounter based on your starting location. Eventually, after reaching level 5 as a trainer, you may choose one of three teams inspired by the original legendary bird Pokémon: Valor (Moltres), Mystic (Articuno), and Instinct (Zapdos). Various locales are set up as Pokéstops you can visit to get more items (Pokéballs, potions, or even Pokémon eggs!) and gyms where you might battle against other trainers to take over the gym for your designated team.
What Pokémon GO seems to encourage above all else is for players to get outside. I have spoken at length before in past articles about how our geeky and nerdy hobbies can bring us together but I have never seen anything like Pokémon GO's draw for total strangers. While it's easy for most of us to hide behind a computer screen in sharing our hobbies and interests, Pokémon GO returns the fans to face one another and gives them a mutual goal: catch Pokémon and have fun. Pokémon GO will no doubt also make for the greatest dating app without ever intending to by this logic alone. Suddenly your potential trip to the next super hero thriller or terrible, twisty-faced ghost horror movie will be met with scouring the parking lot or keeping an eye out for new Pokéstops to visit to replenish your items. It potentially adds a whole new dynamic for that first date and gives what some might consider awkward conversations or dull pauses a rest for those of us who might find the "first date" to be a little more than harrowing.
This bridging of childhood nostalgia and an entirely new age of Pokémon fans gives a rare opportunity to change our behaviors for the better from going out , meeting new people, and allowing ourselves to take more risks, and welcome new experiences. While it need be said that it is very important to always use common sense and be safe while playing any games outside (the game offers a disclaimer for you to pay attention to your surroundings), I look forward to hearing many more stories about new friends made, social-anxieties broken down, and better and healthier habits among my friends and coworkers alike. I look forward to the stories of my friends who met that adorable someone in their moment of pure joy in catching some rare and elusive Pokémon and seeing that inner child thrive and completely glow. We have a chance to enjoy our youths again and share it with one another and to me, nothing could be more romantic.