Pokémon GO (Away): The View from an Outsider


Swiping up has replaced swiping left

As I’m sure many, if not all of you have heard, Pokémon GO is taking over the world. Part game, part social platform, fans of the game both young and old are taking to their phone screens and lacing up their walking shoes. Using your geographical location to populate Pokémon, Gyms (Gems?), and some other stuff everyone is all hype about, players are meeting up with each other in these locations to discuss their love for the app and their awesome loot.

As indicated in the title, I do not have this app, nor have I ever participated in anything Pokémon related—from my youth onward. Game aspect aside, this app has done a tremendous job of bringing real life players together and fostering conversation between relative strangers. For instance, as a mid-millennial I often hang with friends on the weekends. What was supposed to be a chill hang at a brewery on Saturday quickly turned all things Poké. It began with a lull in conversation, turned a quick use of the phone, followed by an exclamation of surrounding Pokémon and a reference of grinding them into candy? I don’t even know.

Of the 6 of us gathered, only 2 were not actively participating in the Pokéversation, and only 1 of us has never had the app installed on our phones (that was me, duh.). The other congregant had a phone malfunction where the app mysteriously vanished from her phone screen, and they did not bother to reinstall it. That’s some willpower.

After much conversation with the active users, I have found that Pokécrawls (bar hopping and Pokéstopping) are super popular. Services similar to Uber in the sense that you are picked up by a driver, driven around town and allowed to pick up Pokémon from the comfort of an air-conditioned automobile are rising in popularity. Many users are waiting until the cool of the day (usually night) to go and find these rarities, leaving them susceptible to harm’s way.

Some “users” have taken advantage of the online community GPS tracking to find players isolated in odd areas and mug them. So it is to be noted that caution should always be exercised when collecting your whatevers. And speaking of exercise, many players have noticed an increase in metabolism and endorphins from the acute spike in physical activity this app encourages.

Seemingly, this app has everything a player could want: childhood nostalgia, easy gameplay-ability, ease of picking-up and putting-down when you are done playing for the moment, social, physical, drones, franchise-able avenues, really—you name it, they’ve got it. But does it have staying power?

Some news sources are saying that Pokémon GO has surpassed Tinder in app downloads, which should tell you something. Other sources speculate that Nintendo’s stock has risen upward of $11BILLION since the launch of this app of only a few weeks. What is the future for the app? A reboot of the beloved children’s cartoon? A spike in babies named Squirtle? Or is this just a summer fling—like your Tinder match.

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