Last night at around 11:00 p.m., a day after downloading Pokemon Go, my girlfriend and I had a sudden pressing inclination to go to the park and try and level up our trainers. We don’t live in the safest town of all time, so when we noticed several men walking behind us we became cautious but trekked on, crossing our fingers they weren’t up to no good. It took us a few minutes to realize that everyone there was up to the same non-mischief.
A girl walked past us as we got closer and reached a landmark, loudly exclaiming and pointing behind her, “There was an Eevee right back there.”
There we were, standing in the dark in a place we wouldn’t normally feel entirely safe, surrounded by harmless gamers with the same purpose, the small square lights of their phone screens encompassing us. I usually associate strangers on their phones with isolation, but this was different. We were all being socially antisocial. We were unified. Awkward, yet connected.
The same girl who called out the Eevee’s location shouted this time,”Bulbasaur! Bulbasaur over here!” Everyone in the park came running, and most of us thanked her.
For those who haven’t played, Pokemon Go uses augmented reality, a combination of CGI and real life. The app shows a cartoon map of where you are and once a Pokemon (collectible creatures that you trap and level-up) appears on the map, you click on it and see via your phone’s rear-facing camera where it is. Sometimes they’re inside, bouncing around on a table or mischievously blocking your view of the TV. Sometimes they’re next to a river bank or on top of a car, and other times they’re interrupting this blog post.
While it’s always possibly to catch a few Magikarps from the comfort of home, the game rewards you for visiting real-life locations. You can’t make real progress without going outside. So, besides uniting gamers, it’s also making us walk.
In larger cities, hundreds of people can be seen gathering in parks, memorials and other notable locations. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Server issues or not, Pokemon Go has already revolutionized gaming. It’s more popular than Tinder. Friendships and romances are being formed. People are uniting over it and the best part is that they’re not doing it from across the country, behind a headset on the couch. They’re not waiting the entire year to talk with peers at Comic-Con or E3…
It’s happening right now, every day, all around the world, in person, for free.