I have never been into Pokemon. I was an adult when Pokemon came out in the 1990’s, and I remember hearing about and seeing kids play it, but it never really interested me.
20 years later, Pokemon is an empire with followers who are as loyal and ardent as any Star Trek or Doctor Who fans.
And though it still doesn’t really interest me, the Pokemon Go phenomenon has caught my attention.
Pokemon Go is a new game, available as a free app for download on smart phones, which encourages people to get outside and find the Pokemon creatures. Here’s a better explanation:
In simple terms, Pokémon Go uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon “appear” around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them. As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is. The idea is to encourage you to travel around the real world to catch Pokémon in the game.
This game is what is called an augmented reality (AR) game, using smart phones and tablets to project an image related to the game into the background of whatever you are looking at, via the tablet or phone screen.
The Navigator had a Jurassic World AR app which projected dinosaurs into our living room (at least on the tablet screen). He loved seeing T-Rex looming over our couch and triceratops sitting in front of our tv.
Pokemon Go is also a location-based game, meaning the more the players move around the further ahead in the game they can get. It is like getting ahead by moving around the Monopoly board, except on your neighborhood streets.
It is unlikely I would have done this for my own entertainment, but what about using it to get the Navigator out of the house every day, even just for short walks?
While he had not heard about the Pokemon Go app, to my surprise he was well versed in Pokemon. He knew what the Pokemon were, how to capture them, and with his prior AR experience took to the game as a proverbial fish to water.
The boy who fantasized about his whole summer being in front of his computer was voluntarily outside walking around.
We have seen others out and about on the hunt in our otherwise sleepy neighborhood, kids with their tell-tale phones in hand, stopping to looking around them, looking at their phones, and then moving on.
We stop, say hi, share our experiences, and then continue the hunt.
He commented regularly how it would be more fun if he were hunting dinosaurs instead of Pokemon, but he also showed clear signs of enjoying himself. His being willing to leave the house was a huge sign, and to me a big deal.
Thanks little pocket monsters.
A version of this article was also published on The Mighty.