Since its release on July 6, Pokemon GO, Nintendo and Niantic’s newest installation of the franchise, has become the most downloaded and highest grossing app on the App Store. It took only 19 days for this spinoff to reach 50 million downloads, which is a feat games like Supercell’s Clash of Clans have yet to reach. With little but word of mouth and the preexisting reputation of Pokemon, this app has exploded onto the scene at record pace. But what is so special about it?
In a modern take on the classic handheld game, Pokemon GO uses your cell phone’s GPS and camera features to bring the Pokemon into your world. These little virtual monsters spawn around your area, and the augmented reality feature uses your camera so that they appear to be in the real world. To make it an even more immersive experience, the game requires you to move around to find different Pokemon, hatch new ones in eggs, and get important in-game items and experience points. This aspect of the game that makes it so unique, however, is actually the central topic of debate over the game.
Many are enraged with the game because they believe it encourages irresponsible or distracted behavior in public. There has also been a small amount of criminal activity related to the game. Personally, I find these issues with the game to be misdirected attacks. The game features warning upon opening the app to remind players to stay alert and aware while playing, which I believe should be common sense anyway. It is also wrong to criticize the game for this and the reported crimes, as the game itself is at fault for neither. Inherently, the game is distracting. However, as long as normal safety precautions are taken, such as looking up while playing or traveling in groups at night, the game seems to carry little risk.
Instead of emphasizing the bad the game has been blamed for, we should look at the potential benefits of it. The game not only encourages exercise, it requires it for several of its key features. In addition, the game also encourages socializing while playing. I often see people working together to find nearby rare Pokemon or using items in the app that benefit everyone around. There are also three teams in the game; Mystic, Instinct and Valor. Upon reaching a certain level, you’ll join one of these, which will determine who you fight for in gyms. These encourage teammates to work together and brings some friendly competition to opposing teams. While playing on campus, I have seen players ask other trainers, “What team?” more times than I can count.
Despite being very different from the original games, Pokemon Go keeps the main elements, such as finding and catching new Pokemon as well as battling gyms. The new twists and features, though, add enough to bring in a new audience to the game. The game is not perfect, but then again, what is? I encourage people to try it before ruling it off as annoying, unsafe or even childish. It is a great game, it encourages exercise, and it allows long-time fans and newcomers to the franchise to come together socially in a way that is family friendly and fun for everyone.
Dylan Brister is an sophomore economics major from Gulfport, MS