I doubt I would have played Pokemon if my little sister hadn’t let me borrow her copy of Blue. Our mother had gotten her the game, but my sister was 6 and didn’t really know how to play a grindy RPG. I started up the game and was hooked. The game could be played casually or it can be played intensively. Nintendo knows what fun is and created a world that has been exciting to explore and hardcore if you wanted to put the time in it. It is still one of my favorite franchises. Despite this fact, there has always been a voice inside my head telling me I should be embarrassed for playing such a “kiddie” game. To many, the look of Pokemon is childish and I can’t argue. No matter how much I might tout the depth, most would refer to Jigglypuff, Togepi, and Clefairy as proof that I’m just a thirty-something playing with dolls. As with some of my other hobbies that I’m too old for, I’ve learned to be okay with this voice and ignore it. It doesn’t go away, but it doesn’t affect me directly anymore.
By now, everyone knows of Pokemon GO and most are actively playing it. I’m not normally a fan of free-to-play games, but with Pokemon in the title, I had to give it a chance. As of this post, I’m level 10. I’ve seen 37 unique Pokemon and caught 36 of them over and over again. (I’ll find you again, Haunter!) I’ve evolved some and transferred others. I’ve hatched eggs and started to build a team for gym battles. In less than a week, I consider myself “all-in.”
While I could write about aspects of the game I like or areas of improvement, I really wanted to focus on the community I’ve met in these first days of the game’s launch. The first day I went to a large park, I felt a bit embarrassed walking around with my cell phone out trying to track down a Charmander. My feeling of shame was blinding me to my surroundings. The second day, I started to notice the many other people doing the exact same thing. Plus, they were people like me, men my age. They were people unlike me: kids, mothers, runners, and skateboarders. There isn’t a “type” of player. Everyone is playing. As I walked with my phone out trying to find where Oddish was, I’d walk past someone who would say, “There is an Abra over by the windmill.” I’d exchange knowing nods as I pass others with their phones out. I’ve stopped some people who I’ve passed multiple times to ask them questions about the game. My daughter and I met a little girl and her aunt on a walk/Pokemon hunt. The other little girl immediately wanted to show my daughter the Pokemon she found. Every interaction I’ve had has been kind, fun, and helpful. I’ve taken many walks with and without my daughter. I’ve checked out landmarks around the city I live in, but haven’t noticed until recently. I’ve never played a game that has made me feel more connected to my community.
So, I’m sure to some it might look like I’m solely focused on my phone, but I’m actually walking in and seeing more of my city than I ever have before.