Pokemon Go: taking ridiculous to family levels
Have you been wondering what this new tech craze, Pokemon Go, is all about? Here we explore how it's keeping families connected and may have some unexpected health benefits.
Parenthood is full of things I never thought I’d say. Random sentences, that when taken out of context become complete gibberish, and really, could make me seem quite odd. But other parents will get it.
Before I had a child, I could never have predicted ever saying things like “don’t lick the windows”, or “pet food isn’t people food” and yet, here we are. I’ve said both, and many more ridiculous things since becoming a mum 11 years ago.
But on the weekend, my ‘things I never thought I’d say’ meter reached new heights, with the introduction of Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game from Niantic, which allows you to catch Pokémon in the real world.
And while I’m usually suspicious of anything that makes me say things like “don’t go into anyone’s garden to catch a Pokémon” and “no Pikachu is worth a trip to the hospital”, so far the benefits far outweigh the negatives of this new craze.
Poké-mayhem means Poké-movement
While we’re by no means a sedentary family, the winter cold has recently seen us bundle on the couch with movies, a snuggle blanket and a bowl of popcorn more than I’d like to admit.
Combine that with the end of a (very) long three weeks of school holidays, and we’re all probably reaching for the screens more than we should be.
However, Pokémon Go rewards those who move. And not just pace up and down the hallway, as my daughter tried to do during a particularly rainy part of the weekend.
It’s best when you actually get out and pound the pavement; with the opportunities for catching Pokémon increasing with every step. In our travels yesterday we spotted them on mailboxes, sitting in the gutter and perching on tree branches, and we didn’t even notice all the steps we were notching up in the process.
We’re not alone in this. There are reports flooding in on twitter of gamers complaining of sore legs, while others are claiming that just the act of getting out and about in the fresh air has been the best thing for their mental health in years.
As you move around your neighbourhood, you can not only catch the elusive Pokémon, there are also opportunities to gather extra ‘stuff’ (totally not the technical term) at PokéStops to help you on your missions, and battle other players at ‘gyms’ for Pokémon supremacy. Or something like that.
It also rewards you for moving, with some elements of the game only working after a certain number of steps are taken. We’ve caught a small egg of some kind (again, you can tell I’m totally up with the lingo here) which only seems to hatch when we’ve walked two kilometres. Challenge accepted.
With research showing that regular walking can have health benefits including a reduced risk of type two diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity and some cancers, it seems that chasing down Pokémon’s is as good as an excuse as any to get moving.
Poké-time is family time
The Pokémon Go app is developed for smartphones and doesn’t really work on tablets. While a lot of children may have a tablet of some kind, less kids tend to have phones. This means parents, or older siblings, may need to be involved in the quest for Pokémon.
As a result, deliberate or not, the folks at Niantic are bringing families together.
If you’ve ever tried to figure out your tween’s Snapchat account, or acted like you knew what you were doing on Musicly, then you’ll understand my pain. It can be hard to find things for my daughter and I to connect over, especially where technology is involved.
However, this app seems to have broken the age barrier. The interface is simple and easy to use (unlike some other platforms that we won’t mention, but that might rhyme with Mapcat), and we’ve only downloaded it on my phone, which ensures we’re hunting the little monsters together.
These opportunities for connection are important, especially as we come into facing the teenage years. In fact, research suggests that teens who have trusting and open relationships with their parents are better equipped to develop independence and grow into responsible adults.
And what better way to model responsibility than chasing a Pokémon down the street, while throwing imaginary balls at it…
Augmented fun, real world risks
Maybe one of the unexpected side effects of all this getting out and about, and staying connected, is that some people are getting so engrossed in the augmented world, that they’re not noticing the real life risks.
The game itself even warns you as you log in… be aware of your surroundings. However it hasn’t stopped people walking out on the road to capture a Pidgey, or falling down ditches or up gutters to get that Zubat.
As someone who falls over regularly (clumsy is part of my skill-set), I need no additional help with this. So I’m taking the warnings seriously, and you probably should to.
It’s not often that a craze comes along that the whole family can get involved in. And if watching the families in my street; dads with their concentrated brows, kids squealing and mums high-fiving each other as they found a monster, is anything to go by, this isn’t just a craze for the kids.
And while catching Pokémon might seem ridiculous (and it probably is) what family doesn’t need a bit of ridiculous now and then?