Exactly 20 years ago, a Japanese video game designer created a set of fictional characters that sent the world into a craze, madly collecting and training little fictional creatures to battle for sport. This summer, instead of appearing on Gameboy screens and in decks of collectible cards, those same creatures have reappeared elsewhere. And by elsewhere I mean everywhere. These crazy little creatures your kids all want to collect? They’re called Pokémon.
If you’ve seen crowds of kids, teens, and even adults roaming your neighborhood with their heads facedown in their smartphones, they aren’t texting or Snapchatting. They’re using this summer’s hottest new app, Pokémon Go. The concept? Using GPS and augmented realty (AR) technology, the app allows you to capture, battle, and train virtual Pokémon who appear throughout the real world, as in, your world.
Personally, I want to give a standing O to the team of brilliant software developers who created the Pokémon Go augmented reality app. I would wager big bucks they’re the same kids who spent years of their youth trading actual paper Pokémon cards for hours, before tablets and high-def video games hijacked attention spans and halted conversations. Whoever you are, smartphone coding kings and queens, I salute you. Because Pokémon Go has singlehandedly not only busted the midsummer boredom blues, but it’s also a game I have actually enjoyed joining my kids in playing. There are endless ways to have fun with it, it doesn’t require a great breadth of character knowledge, and it can be played anywhere and at anytime.
1. It has gotten all of us off the couch.
Here’s the deal, the more Pokémon you “collect,” the better. Where are they? Well, they’re not all in your house. All I know is one second my kids were napping all day, and the next, I gave them my iPhone and my Fitbit, and they came back 10,000 steps and 20 Pokémons later. I’ve jumped on the creature-catching bandwagon, and my kids and I are on skateboards, bikes, and scooters together seeking those little suckers at every corner.
2. It’s clean.
And by clean, I mean it’s G-rated. No inappropriate pop-up ads, language, or images. There are options for in-app purchases so keep a handle on the credit cards you have linked to the app store. There is also an innovative and personalized side to the game, as kids can create a trainer in their own image. My kids even made me a trainer that looks like a “mom.”
3. It’s something parents and kids can play together.
Seriously, I mean together! Little ones should not be out wandering alone in the woods looking for Pokémon, and I would monitor the locations of tweens who are out character-seeking and encourage them to Pokémon hunt in groups. Try large common areas like outdoor parks, bike or walking trails, and greenways, and by all means join the fun! The app has a very scavenger hunt feeling to it, and parents will find it just as amusing and competitive as the kids do. I will admit wanting to knock one of my kids over for Pikachu. It has even made running errands not so horrible. We have a running log of who has what, we discuss when and where we want to go hunt, we have a mini-competition to see where is the strangest place we can find one, and the kids are stoked that I am truly engaged in something that they like to do.
4. Even older teens and adults think it’s cool.
My college freshman said instead of pounding back beers, kids on campus are up all night roaming the dorms trying to catch Pokémon. For the 18-to-25-year-old set who grew up playing this or Geocaching, they’re all too familiar with the search and capturing craze, and are overjoyed it has gone hi-tech.
5. It’s bringing people together, and out into their towns.
There are plenty of Pokémon out there to go around, so don’t be surprised if you see a fellow collector out there giving you tips and advice on where to find a great Pokestop. It seems you can instantly tell if someone else is playing, giving it a social and almost communal aspect. So, what’s a Pokestop? Let’s just say you’re gonna want what you find there, and they are typically located at public places of interest — say a post office, museum, church, library, statue, or monument. It’s also a great chance to get out there with your kids and explore your city like a tourist, visiting parts of your town and maybe even nearby ones you’ve never seen. And it’s making road trips bearable. On a recent two-hour drive during vacation, time flew by while we talked Pokémon and made some special stops along the way to find a Pokémon Gym.
Stay safe out there trainers! I have a feeling this is only the beginning of your training. Just do me a favor? Don’t try to capture and drive. That’s just stupid. And remember to stick by your little ones during the hunt.