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If you’re alive and you’ve used the internet for more than five seconds in the past week, you’ve heard about Pokemon Go, the mobile augmented reality game that’s getting adults and kids alike to flock to the streets in search of Pokemon, the adorable “pocket monsters” with names like Pikachu and Jigglypuff. Released in the US on July 6, this game has already beat out Tinder for the most popular app on the market.
It’s drawing more people toward local businesses, and even improving some players’ mental health. Speaking for myself, I was going through a difficult time last week while waiting for news from my doctor, and playing Pokemon Go with my family kept me distracted and calm.
All of the negativity about this game on Facebook is sort of harshing my vibe. I’m not talking about the privacy concerns (which have now been fixed), but the memes that imply the game is for lazy people with nothing better to do. I’m not sure why people go out of their way to degrade an activity that others enjoy, but it’s made me feel like I need to defend why my family and I love this game so much.
1. It’s something we both enjoy.
As a parent, you probably know how rare it is when there’s an activity that enthralls both you and your children, especially when they’re younger. You can only “watch this!” 97 or so times as they knock over a Lego tower before you start to lose your mind. Pokemon Go has been an activity that my husband, son, and I can play together. None of us are bored, and it encourages a little healthy competition among us.
When it all comes down to it, your kids just want to play with you. And they can tell when you’re not enjoying yourself. As for me, I’m 100% comfortable being the kind of mom that will run around a park after work or do a sudden U-turn to catch a Pikachu. Holden wouldn’t be enjoying himself so much if I wasn’t right there next to him, matching his enthusiasm for a rare Pokemon.
2. He’s exercising–and he doesn’t even know it!
Pokemon Go actually forces you to walk to get rewards. To incubate an egg to hatch a rare Pokemon, you must walk 2 km, 5 km, or 10 km, depending on the egg. The app knows if you’re cheating, so driving doesn’t work. (Not that we’ve tried or anything.) In the week or so that Pokemon Go has been released, my kid has walked at least 12 kilometers, which is over 7 miles.
The rest of us are active, too. A family member actually told me they’ve noticed I’ve lost weight–and I’m guessing it has something to do with all the extra physical activity I’ve been adding to my daily routine. Instead of watching Netflix after dinner, we get outside and walk while playing Pokemon Go.
3. Pokemon Go is teaching my son about geography & maps.
My son is five, and until recently he was not very familiar with how to use and understand a map. And he still has trouble with left and right occasionally. Since we’ve downloaded Pokemon Go, I will hear him pipe up from the back seat saying, “Mom, drive two more blocks and then turn left. There’s a Pokestop by a lake!”
With Pokemon Go, my son can navigate the streets of our neighboring towns and alert us if there’s a river coming up. This app has taken us to the post office, many local churches, parks, historical sites, and small businesses. It’s taken us places we haven’t visited in a long time, and my son is discovering there’s more to our town than he ever knew. We found a pretty impressive buffalo sculpture that neither of us had noticed before. Pokemon Go led us right to it!
4. We’re getting history lessons from Pokemon Go.
As mentioned above, a lot of gyms and Pokemon stops are located at historical sites and landmarks. In the game, if a Pokestop is at a historical location, it gives you an opportunity to read about it on your phone if it’s nearby. The Pokestop could be a museum, a historical marker where an important battle was fought, a sculpture of a historical figure, etc. While playing, I take the time to explain the historical significance of the location to my son.
5. We’re interacting with strangers in positive ways.
I’ve never taught Holden about “stranger danger.” Instead, we talk about “tricky people.” Because some strangers are actually really friendly nerds who are trying to find a Snorlax just like us. The second time we played, Holden met someone who was on his team (Team Instinct!) and smiled for the rest of our walk. Another day, some teenage girls told us where to find an Onyx. (We weren’t so lucky.) With me by his side, my autistic son is having safe, pleasant interactions with strangers.
So while a few people (out of hundreds of thousands) have had bad experiences with the game, don’t let the negativity scare you. You can play Pokemon Go safely with your family, and your kids. are. going. to. LOVE. it. So get out there, trainers, and start throwing pokeballs! Just let me know where to find the elusive Snorlax, okay?
By the way, I found the coolest Pokemon phone cases on Amazon. I mean, if you want to be the very best, like no one ever was….