‘Pokemon Go’ gets them off the couch
It’s all the rage and a cutting-edge craze — sweeping not only the nation, but the entire world. If you don’t have an inkling of understanding about what the verve is all about, chances are you’re aware of the buzz about "Pokemon Go." And, if you’re like me, you wish you had the foresight to invest in the Nintendo Company a couple of months ago.
"Pokemon Go" is a new game played on mobile devices. On July 12, less than a week after it was first released, the app became the most active mobile game in the United States ever with 21 million users. This thing is bigger than Candy Crush Saga.
Mobile apps are a dime a dozen (or often free, as is the case with "Pokemon Go"). Except this game is different from the others in one major way — it is location-based. You can’t play while sitting in your living room. The game requires that you go out into the real world. To find and catch imaginary Pokemon (animal-like cartoon creatures) and hatch their eggs.
Makes perfect sense.
Hatching eggs requires a couple of things: A virtual incubator and walking. If kids (and kids who have already technically grown up) want to hatch an egg, they first place it in an incubator located on their phone. Then they get moving, in the real world, in real time. Eggs take anywhere from two to 10 kilometers to hatch. For those of you not living on the metric side of things, one kilometer is a little more than half a mile. The app keeps track of the distance you’ve traveled and hatches the egg accordingly.
And don’t even think about cheating the system. Distance counting stops when a player exceeds a certain speed, so driving in a car doesn’t count toward egg hatching. You’ve got to hoof it.
Players travel between places located at various places around town to capture and battle — all while they are outside, exercising without even realizing it. Here’s the Pokemon magic: They just think they are having fun. There hasn’t been anything this ingenious since kick-the-can.
At least that’s this mom’s perspective. Pre-Pokemon, I was the one battling — to get my kids off the couch and away from the screen. Now they’ve still got the screen, but at least they are off the couch, playing outside with friends. Poke me.
Nothing this popular can skate (or walk) by without some amount of criticism. People walking or biking while staring at their phone screens is like distracted driving without the car. Walking the streets after dark may put kids at risk of not being seen by motorists. And, players hunting Pokemon at places like museums, cemeteries, memorial sites and fire stations isn’t always embraced by the non-players visiting or working at those sites.
Still, I’m a proponent.
My kid hasn’t played any indoor video games in the last week. If you are the mom of a 14-year-old boy, you understand the immensity and nearly miraculous significance of that statement.
I’ve heard adults (myself included) lament nostalgically over the good old days, when summer and childhood meant getting on your bike and exploring the woods or going to a nearby park and whiling away the hours until it was time to go home for lunch, or maybe even supper if you’d eaten a big enough breakfast or packed yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
My kid is doing that. His bike is broken, so he’s been riding mine — a no speed, over-sized, fender-laden mom bike if you’ve ever seen one. He doesn’t care about his lack of fancy wheels because he is having fun. He leaves in the morning and makes a quick pit stop for lunch. His face has developed a warm summer glow. He’s meeting up with friends and finding new ones. The game’s even taught him about kilometer conversion.
So, for now I can overlook the fact that his summer reading isn’t yet complete. We’ll get to that. Summer should be a time of playing outside with your friends. This new game may not be perfect, but it isn’t a perfect world. I’ll take what I can get. And for this summer, at least, it’s all about the go. "Pokemon Go."
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.