For a few years now, Nintendo has been teasing the world with an app for your phone that allowed you to be a real life Pokemon trainer. Last Tuesday, that game was released and titled Pokemon Go.
For those unfamiliar with the Pokemon brand, the game first made its appearance in 1998 in the U.S. along with the TV show that first aired in September of that same year. Basically, the show and the game are about a world filled with these creatures that have powers. In the original games and TV show, in which Pokemon Go is based, there were 150 of these creatures that you could catch, level up and battle with. As of today, there are 27 games in the series, with two more coming this year, and over 700 Pokemon total. The game is massively popular with almost 300 million copies of the game sold, which makes it the second most popular game series right behind Mario.
But back to the topic at hand.
Last Tuesday, Nintendo and a company named Niantic released Pokemon Go. This game works with Google maps to let you walk around your own town and catch Pokemon. In Hillsboro alone, there are five gyms, which are the places where you can battle with your collected Pokemon. The standout part of this game is how much it relies on the user being active. You have to get out and walk around to collect these creatures. There are also eggs that you can get and they come with a counter on them which ranges from two, five and 10 kilometers. You can’t just do this in a car because the game knows how fast you are moving and if you go over a certain speed, it doesn’t track. Basically, if you want to ‘Catch them All’, which is the game’s catch phrase, you have to get out and move. And this fact has not stopped many from getting the game.
I downloaded the game on my phone the minute it came out. It’s something I’ve been tracking since they informed the public they were working on it. Saturday, I drove into town just to investigate where all the places were in the game. I saw no less than 50 people walking the streets of town, many of them in groups, laughing and discussing their Pokemon. One of the town’s gyms in town is the Union soldiers statue in front of the Highland County Courthouse. There, I saw 10-12 people of varying ages fighting for control of the gym. All around town, there were groups of people meeting up and comparing their collections. A simple game on a phone had brought people together in the town of Hillsboro. People who may have otherwise never even met each other were sitting side-by-side, trying to overpower a gym.
I saw on Twitter this weekend that someone had said that Michelle Obama has been trying for eight years to combat childhood obesity and Nintendo did it in 24 hours. This might seem like a silly joke, but it has some truth. In this era, we have video game consoles that basically take away kids’ desire to go outside. They are visually stunning and getting better by the day. They are also extremely competitive with many games holding their own tournaments. Pokemon Go brings that same type of competitiveness, but in a game that forces those playing it outside the house. And the amazing part of it all is that you don’t even see it as exercise. You’re just out there trying to catch all the Pokemon you can find.
I’ve watched my social media over the past week and there were people in the beginning that had no idea what it was or were even scoffing at the idea of a Pokemon game. Now these same people can’t stop playing. This could just be a passing fad, but I think it’s amazing while it’s popular right now. Getting people out and about walking around and all for good fun. And with this county’s drug problems, it’s really nice to see kids hanging out on the corner playing a game together from their youth.
All in all, I think the game is a great thing as long as it sticks around. If you have smartphone, I challenge you to download the app. Even if you don’t know anything about Pokemon, you might be surprised with the fun you can have and the people you might meet. And the whole time, you’ll be out getting exercise.
Reach Robert Stegbauer at 937-393-3456 ext. 1679 or on Twitter @RStegbauer.