Seriously, Pokémon GO Isn’t The Problem… Quite the Opposite! [OPINION]

It’s a very strange time right now for gamers and non-gamers alike with Pokémon GO seemingly taking over entire cities with hordes of players hunting the big wide world for the next addition to their Pokédex. Whether or not this is just a “craze”, it’s not going to disappear anytime soon with the enormous Pokémon fanbase combined with the fact that every Jessie, James and Meowth owns a smartphone. Naturally, a game encouraging people to wander their local towns and cities with their faces buried in their phones (despite the game’s obvious warnings on-screen) is going to lead to stories in the press of car accidents and other misdemeanors. However, in most cases of Pokémon GO players reportedly finding their way to trouble, the game is pointed out as the party at fault, and not the player ignoring common sense that is employed in every other element of life.

Before we even think about the argument of “guns Pokémon GO doesn’t kill people, people do”, let’s look at a handful of the merits of the game.

Obviously, it’s going to get more people out and about, more often. Not only are we talking about the benefits of increased physical activity, but encouraging people to seek out and enjoy the beauty of the world around them. Gyms and Pokéstops around our local areas are usually points of interest, many of which are likely not often visited by players, or perhaps are even completely new to them. Despite living in walking distance of literally everything in Guernsey, I’ve already discovered landmarks and significant locations I wasn’t even aware of thanks to the game, and learned more about the history behind some of the locations I did know.

Screenshot_4

It has become obvious very early on that Pokémon GO is a truly social game. By making regular ventures out into my local areas, I’ve been meeting up with friends for social Poké-hunts and, more importantly, meeting new people. My favourite moments playing this game occur when heading toward a Pokéstop – noticing a couple of people on a bench nearby on their phones, and there is this instant mutual recognition of a fellow trainer, often leading to conversation about teams, lures and exchanging catches of the day. With a little basic common sense, this kind of scenario is entirely harmless, and can offer some of the most rewarding moments of your journeys as a trainer.

Now, all of the above is more relevant to adults who are able to go out independently and be safe as they explore, but what about children? A recent personal experience should help illustrate my point…

I help run a youth group once a week which in the summer will often find the 20 or so of us out and about at local parks and the such. This week I was waiting with a couple of the children to be picked up when a parent arrived to collect one of the children – immediately he was greeted with a “Hi, can I have your phone please?”

The parent took one look at me, smiled and passed his phone to the child, jokingly muttering to me “I don’t know how Pokémon GO has managed to get these kids so hooked…”, expecting me to agree – until I pulled my phone out with a quiet grin. The next five minutes consisted of chatting original Pokémon with the 8-year-old, explaining how these are the Pokémon I used to know as a kid, swapping stories of our catches, and hearing multiple mentions that he’d been playing the game whilst out with family.

Screenshot_1

What I’m trying to explain is that Pokémon GO is a generation-bridging experience. For parents and adults both young and old who played the original titles, it’s very rewarding to talk with young players about how these original Pokémon (many of which the children have probably never heard of) are the ones their elders knew all too well as children of the same age. That’s not to rule out parents who never touched a Pokémon game, though. Whilst the children learn about these original Pokémon, their parents can join in on the experience and learn about them too as their children catch them on evening walks that otherwise may never have happened. Let them teach you about the Pokémon they find as you show and teach them about the town you grew up in. It’s a whole new adventure of its own and certainly a unique one with not much else around to match it.

What were we talking about again? Ah yes, with all those benefits and experiences Pokémon GO offers, what could there possibly be to complain about? Well, honestly, not a lot. Aside from the argument that it’s getting people buried in their phones rather than actually socialising and experiencing the world around them (which is a whole new kettle of fish that we don’t have time for), the primary concern with the game is safety. Now, even if we ignore the fact that the game presents a huge warning every time the game opens, the argument that the game is still the root cause of accidents and injuries really doesn’t have a lot of weight. Yes, if the game didn’t exist then they wouldn’t happen, but the concept is no different to texting whilst walking – if the user doesn’t employ common sense, then accidents are bound to happen.

Screenshot_2

Playing Pokémon GO without looking where you’re going is comparable to walking around with your eyes shut – both merely require a pinch of common sense to make the situation completely harmless, and a lack of common sense is a problem that simply can’t be solved. If somebody cannot muster up the ability to at least look where they’re going, then game or no game, they’re going to get into bother and Pokémon GO cannot be held responsible for the outcome.

That’s about all there is to it, from my point of view this highly popular game seems to have an awful lot of merits, and very little to criticise (beyond the uh…”bumpy” server situation). I’ll leave you with one very simple message: If you’re already a Pokémon GO player, be sensible, be wary, and shamelessly enjoy this game to your heart’s content. If you’re not a player, give it a shot! The worst that can happen is you get bored and delete the app – if you don’t try it how do you know you won’t like it? If your children are pestering you to let them play the game and you’re worried about safety, stop worrying! Use it as an excuse to spend time out and about with them, as long as you make sure they pay attention to their surroundings and afford them the same care as you normally would, they’ll have fun and so will you!

What do you think of Pokémon GO? Are you with Valor, Mystic or Instinct?

Let us know in the comments or on our subreddit!