Pokémon GO is an augmented reality mobile app game where 20 years of dreams finally come true. It has been two decades since Pokémon Red and Blue were released. Since then we have seen countless other Pokémon games, cartoons, movies, and other forms of entertainment come and go, but none of them were able to do what Pokémon GO does. It takes everything that was amazing about playing the original Pokémon games and does the closest thing currently possible to actually bringing Pokémon to life and having them roam the land. It’s an app that took an entire planet’s worth of hopes and dreams and brought them to life. Well for at least a few countries. I still couldn’t play it at the time of writing the first draft of this but if anything that shows just how important and popular this game really is. It’s taken over the entire world. It has affected people’s lives, businesses, physical and mental health, safety, relationships, jobs, and so much more. It’s more than a phenomenon. It’s almost a religion. I’ve seen countless posts, tweets, articles, and news stories, and other public displays addressing some aspect of this game. It’s been used to talk about racism in the United States. It’s been championed as a way to help people reconnect or connect for the first time with their communities. It’s caused robberies. Hundreds of years from now people will see all of this stuff and think that Pokémon GO was some political or religious movement that swept the world, even if just for a few months. I couldn’t even play it when I wrote the first draft of this article yet I still felt compelled to write something of this length on the subject.
What I find most interesting about Pokémon GO is that it’s a positive thing. When new games come out, they’re usually to the detriment of society. They can be fun and have strong online communities and get people talking. But usually a new, amazing game leads to very specific and very standard behavior. The group of people that call themselves gamers buy the game and then don’t go outside for weeks or sometimes months. They sit on their couches glued to a screen and just play and play, often spending extra money on useless additional content. It lets a small group of mostly Asian and White men become famous for playing the game on the eSports circuit. Whether or not these games are fun, we can all admit that people, myself included, sitting around for hours on end, taking days off work, ignoring reality, and getting only as much physical exercise as it takes to walk to the kitchen to get more soda and chips is not a good thing. It’s a good thing for corporations because they’re making a ton of money on DLC, soda, and chips. It’s a good thing for certain politicians because people aren’t going outside to do things like vote for the next President. It’s a good thing for crotchety assholes who don’t like the idea of people being outside. But for individual people, the average popular video game usually has a negative effect on society, or at least portions of it. Even most popular mobile games do people no good. What good came from the likes of Flappy Bird, Candy Crush, and Angry Birds? What’s so amazing about Pokémon GO is that not only is a significant percentage of the world playing it, or wishing they could play it in my case, but it’s actually having a positive effect on people’s lives. It’s getting people to go outside and exercise. I walked 40 km the first week I had access to the game. I haven’t walked 40 km in a week since quite possibly ever. It’s helping people connect with their communities by actually going out and exploring them. It’s helping people with anxiety and other issues that stifle human interaction get out and actually talk to people about a common interest. These are good things.
Some people disagree that Pokémon GO is a good thing. There are three main types of people that think Pokémon GO is a bad thing. The first are people who genuinely don’t want people going outside and exercising. They want people staying inside and not interacting with the real world. They want the status quo to continue so they can feel good about the fact that they don’t go outside. These are assholes and I’m not going to discuss them in detail. If you honestly take issue with people going outside and spending their time not in front of their TVs and computers for no specific reason then you are wrong and I’m gonna move on. The second type of person who doesn’t like Pokémon GO are those who are happy that people are going outside, but hate the fact that the only way to get people to move around is by motivating them through a video game. It saddens them that people are so fed up with reality that the only way to get them off their asses is to turn them into mindless zombies who would rather look at digital renders of made up creatures than actually appreciate real nature. These people make a valid point. It is kind of sad that the only way to get people, myself included, excited about going outside is to create a game that turns outside into a big interactive TV. I may not fully agree with their position, but I understand and appreciate their concern. I have nothing negative to say about them. The third type of Pokémon GO hater is the type I want to focus on for the duration of this article.
Probably the most outspoken haters of Pokémon GO are those who think the negative repercussions that have occurred should be blamed on the game. There are admittedly a number of negative occurrences that have happened in response to Pokémon GO. Some key examples are safety problems due to people not paying attention. There have been a number of recorded and reported moments where people were not paying attention because they were playing the game and as a result endangered themselves and the lives of others. There was a girl who wandered onto a highway and got hit by a car. Many people have fallen down stairs, gotten lost, or crashed their cars. This is one type of negative occurrence that has been a prolific part of this game. But it’s not fair to blame the game for these accidents. The assumption here is that these people are only getting hurt or causing others to get hurt because of Pokémon GO. That’s a false positive way of thinking. The fact is that these people who are doing things like wandering into streets are stupid and don’t pay attention. This is not the fault of any specific app game. And yes it may be true that before this game most of them were staying inside, but that in no way changes the fact that they’re stupid and the fault is with them, not the game. Everyone has a right to go outside. If certain people happen to be bad at being outside that doesn’t mean we imprison them. It means that we have to be careful not to get pulled into their accidents. It’s not illegal to go outside or to be stupid and unfocused. To blame an app game for human evolution is illogical and unfair. If anything this game is just helping to do what naturally used to happen before society started protecting humans from natural selection.
Another negative occurrence that has occurred because of the game is that people have had their lives threatened while playing. Interestingly, this is a very America specific event. People in other countries aren’t getting robbed at gunpoint by teenagers while trying to catch Pokémon. They’re not getting shot at while trying to play an app game in their cars. And cops certainly aren’t drawing guns on them while they walk through parks, doing literally nothing illegal or morally wrong. What that tells us is that this isn’t a Pokémon GO problem. This is an America problem. Yes people have been robbed while playing Pokémon GO. But playing Pokémon GO isn’t illegal last time I checked. But do you know what is illegal? Robbing people. You don’t blame a rape victim for getting raped. And if you do there’s a good chance you’re a bad person and quite possibly a rapist. This is the same scenario. You don’t blame the victim because other people commit crimes. You blame the criminals and the system that puts them in a position where they feel it’s necessary to commit said crimes. But you don’t tell the person who wasn’t doing anything wrong that it’s their fault they got robbed or shot at. That’s ridiculous and not a valid reason to take issue with an app game. You have a right to go outside. As long as you’re not a minor, you have a right to be outside whenever and wherever you want as long as it’s not private property. No one ever has the right to threaten or rob you for being outside. So how is this issue the fault of Pokemon Go or any other app game?
And let me clarify that when I say this is an American problem that I’m not just talking out of my ass. I’m an American, but I currently live in Taiwan. Since Pokemon GO was released here, about three weeks ago by the time this is published, I have seen and continue to see some amazing things. Everyone here is playing it. Young people, old people, couples, entire families including young children, and everyone else I didn’t take the time to name is playing this game. My boss and coworkers of various ages all play it. Entire parks are full of people playing it and none of them feel the least bit threatened. On many occasions I have been out catching Pokemon until later than 2 AM and I am not alone. Scores of people of all ages and types play late into the evening and none of them feel unsafe doing so. Pokemon GO is not the problem when it comes to safety and it shouldn’t be blamed for the various criminal activities reported in relationship to the game.
Private property has become a big part of this issue. People are getting very angry about trainers wandering onto their property to capture Pokémon. But this again is a very America centric problem. If you live in a gated community, a locked apartment building, or in some sort of privately owned guarded compound and someone breaks into/onto your property to catch a Pokémon, you have a right to complain. If someone wanders onto your private lawn, into your backyard, or into a private space that belongs to you, you have a right to complain. You don’t have a right to complain about people walking into public spaces that you just happen to think belong to you. Sidewalks are public spaces. You do not own them. And if you live in one of those mostly Caucasian, rich neighborhoods where you “own” the sidewalk, I want you to realize that in the entire rest of the world, including parts of your own country, no one else has the gall to think they own the sidewalk. Sidewalks exist so people don’t have to walk in the street with the cars. This isn’t the 1800’s where only certain colors of people get to walk on sidewalks. All people are allowed to use sidewalks for as long as they want as long as they aren’t doing anything illegal. Open parking lots do not belong to you. Yes you may park your car there. But unless there’s a gate around it, you don’t own it. Public parks don’t belong to you. Yes your kids may play there and the idea of 30 something year old men wandering around them may make you uncomfortable, but unless those men actually do something to endanger your children, they aren’t doing anything wrong. The problem is not with the people wandering around playing a game, it’s with people who think people don’t have the right to use public spaces in their desired way. That’s not a valid complaint against the game. It does however show that people, again mostly Americans, need to rethink their position in society and realized that the world doesn’t revolve around them.
People have complained that playing the game is immature and that such behavior in such large numbers is a detriment to society. Of course ignoring all the various actual problems society already had long before the release of Pokémon Go such as but not limited to a high rate of divorce, a highly disproportionate percentage of minority shootings by police officers, and a highly corrupt political system if we’re focusing on America. First, that’s not a valid reason to complain about anything. Who are you to tell people what they can and can’t do with their time? Second it’s untrue because if this current Presidential election and Brexit are any indication of the current state of society, I’m pretty sure people were immature and stupid about how they make decisions long before Pokémon GO existed. And let’s remember what the alternatives are. Watching TV all day isn’t mature. Betting on sports isn’t mature. Nothing entertaining to the current masses is technically mature. Because the word mature has nothing to do with preferences and interests. It literally means “fully developed in body or mind.” As long as you aren’t developing anymore, you’re mature. What you do for entertainment doesn’t affect your maturity. If you’re 18 in the United States or whatever age in whatever country, you’re mature. End of discussion.
These are all bad arguments about why Pokémon GO is a bad thing. What they all have in common is that they blame the game and those who play it for human behaviors that would and do occur whether people are playing the game or not. There is no valid reason to blame these occurrences on the game. These are social issues which shouldn’t be blamed on any game but have been made more apparent by this game because it’s actually got people going outside. And again, people going outside and walking miles a day is a good thing. At a time where obesity is ramped up in the United States, it’s a good thing. At a time where many people don’t even know their next door neighbors, it’s a good thing. At a time where everyone needs to get out of their houses and go vote, Pokémon GO is a good thing. Because at least maybe they’ll be near a polling place and will take the few minutes to vote this time around.
I have obviously not addressed every argument that people have voiced against Pokémon GO. I’ve only addressed the most common ones. I think Pokémon GO is a good thing. I believe it has had a positive effect on society and I am glad that it was finally made available in the country I live in. I love having a reason to walk 10 km (not exaggerating) a day. I don’t think everyone needs to start playing it, but I do think everyone needs to finally accept it and stop trying to fight against those who do. I have yet to hear a truly valid argument for why it, in and of itself, is a bad thing, but I’m happy to respond to comments from people claiming to have one. In conclusion Pokémon is fun, exercise is good, and if you disagree with either of those statements you might need to rethink your views on life.