It’s been over a week since Pokémon Go released and the world is going crazy over it.
There are a lot of news articles and negativity circling around Pokémon Go, and I feel it’s my responsibility as a member of the game community with a voice to talk about the implications that Go has and its influence in society. I’m here today to talk to concerned parents, to people who don’t understand the craze, and to my beloved fellow trainers. This is probably the most personally involved and serious I have ever been towards a game, so I’m here as an amazed and perplexed gamer, hoping I will reach those with concern about the app.
Pokémania has happened before
This isn’t the first Pokémon craze: back around 1999, Pokémania exploded in the U.S. and Japan. Anywhere you went you saw kids playing handhelds, pretending to catch Pokémon, and stores were stocked to the brim with merchandise. This actually was a pretty great time for business to earn revenue, but also an opportunity to motivate children to learn, and parents as well.
One thing I don’t like to talk about is how bad I was at reading when I was small. I literally could barely read when Pokémon came out and my determination to play the games set me on a learning curve I can’t even explain. Pokémon taught me how to read. How awesome is that a child was influenced to read because of this craze? I’m sure it also improved the vocabulary of most other kids who played it.
My point is that these things happen more than you think. Just be glad your local stores are making profits off of it this time around. Sure you’re going to see mega-sized pika plushies all over the place, but its a great alternative for people to spend their money on rather than alcohol or unhealthy obsessions. I would rather see young kids playing with a few Pokémon then re-enacting ultra-violent games like they often play otherwise.
Pokémon Go and your kids’ safety
The first concern I want to address in relation to children and the game is of safety: Pokémon Go does not show me or anyone else the location of your children. The GPS is randomized and is only viewable to you in relation to your position on the smartphone. Also many children do not even have the high-powered smartphones that can even run the game. Pokémon Go only runs on iPhone and Android 4.4 and above. A lot of parents opt for cheaper smartphone models that can not handle GO because of the price tags, so your child may not even be able to download the game. And to be clear, if you do have a young child capable of running Go on their phone and you do not feel it’s safe, you are 100% in the right to not let them play you are their parent.
If you are worried about strangers at pokéstops then you are right: people gather there at random and, to be clear, not even adults should walk around alone. This applies for doing anything like going to a new area or places your uncomfortable with, not just related to playing Pokémon Go. In short, if you are letting your kids play, please keep them watched to make sure they are in a safe environment and talk to them about the rules you wish to set with the app. And if you are an adult playing, do so safely in a group and in well lit areas if you go after dark. This is basic safety.
I think kids actually play a lot of games that their parents don’t know much about. If your child has any access to the core gaming networks, he or she is probably in contact with strangers. It is safer than meeting them in person, but it still should be monitored if they are young. We should be targeting the network safety of all games and not just the one that’s popular if we are going to be concerned.
If you’re looking for an alternative, Nintendo consoles are a great choice for young gamers. These consoles do not have voice chat unless your child adds someone directly, and you can easily monitor and keep up with their friend lists.
Pokémon Go and its broader effects
The effects of Pokémon Go are nothing to joke about. I have seen people lose weight and stop doing drugs already. They stopped doing drugs…as someone who may never see their mom again because of an addiction that is just beautiful to me. Something has filled a hole in someone’s life to the point where they let go of their crutch/addiction . This game has led me to seeing my friends who I’ve really missed and gave me connections I never knew I could get back.
A complete stranger flagged me down to tell me he just put a lure up so he could help everyone catch more Pokémon even though it cost him money. He spent his own money because he wanted to help others. People are being selfless; that’s something we’ve really lost lately. And yes, as a society things will be taken advantage of; robbers will try tactics to stealand people will try to take advantage, but they do not and will not outweigh the good this is doing.
There are women out there catching Pokémon that were convinced they couldn’t lose weight and this game is helping them reach their goal. This game is taking away the “I can’t do it” from people and giving them a “Yes I can” in return. When was the last time we had something like this?
It’s seriously amazing just to talk to the people playing it; they will actually interact back with you and tell you all about it! Two weeks ago if you talked to someone in a random place like the mall they’d answer quickly and rush away, if they replied at all. Now people are interacting with the world around them, and with one another! I’m not saying for anyone to force themselves into playing, but I do ask you to appreciate that a simple game has the power to positively influence the world.