If you’re like me, 1/4 of your news feed has gone from bad political memes to photos and posts about the newest mobile sensation, Pokemon Go. I have to admit, I have never seen a game literally change American culture overnight.
For those who haven’t been following, Pokemon Go is a smartphone-based game where, very simply, you move around our physical world looking for virtual creatures that you capture and collect. Think of your phone as a sort of “sensor” for these characters, notifying you when they are near by. They key is, you have to “look” for them, which has turned our cities into a giant scavenger hunt. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s the skinny.
Yesterday, I was at Highland Park getting ready for a senior portrait shoot. In just a few minutes, dozens of people walked by with phones in hand, searching for these virtual creatures throughout the physical park. Meanwhile, strangers were talking about the game, interacting, enjoying the evening outside.
Even if you’re not a fan of Pokemon, even if you’re sick of the social media posts, even if you think this is just another way for people to bury themselves in a virtual world, here’s why Pokemon Go can be a very healthy thing for cities like Rochester.
People Are Getting Outside
“Gamers” of all ages are leaving their game consoles and walking around in the fresh summer air. Since you have to search for the creatures in order to capture them, the game requires you to use your legs and walk or even bike around your town!
It’s Connecting Parents and Kids
Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? You’re never too old for that right? Just like the latest animated movies like “The Secret Life of Pets” are as fun for adults as they are for kids, Pokemon Go plays on our childlike desire to hunt and explore. Where gaming has often created a rift between parents and children, this phenomenon seems to be bringing them together with an adventurous spirit. Imagine that… kids and ‘rents joining forces to “catch ’em all!”
It’s Encouraging People to Explore Their Cities
This is the best part. People are going to places they’ve never been before in their own communities. To find as many Pokemon Go creatures as you can, you need to look everywhere, and I mean everywhere! It’s opening people’s eyes to new places that they might not otherwise visit.
It’s Getting Strangers Talking
Game players are connecting with total strangers, teaming up to find more creatures. They’re talking about the game, sharing ideas, maybe just getting to know one another, and this is all happening in the real world, not the virtual one. This is the first time a that a virtual world has been “superimposed” on our own in such a grand scale, so interactions are happening face to face, in real time. This game is getting people meeting randomly and talking. This is something that, frankly, I believe we struggle with here in Rochester, so any way we can get complete strangers talking to one another is a positive thing!
It’s Good For Business
Reports are coming out detailing stories of businesses in New York City and across the country that have benefited from increased foot traffic because of the game. Pokemon Go allows people to activate “Lures” in certain places, causing more Pokemon creation and thus attracting more “real” people to go there. Businesses are casting these lures and finding their businesses benefiting from the wealth of extra foot traffic. A pizza shop in NYC said their business has increased 75% since they started putting out the virtual lures, which cost about $10 daily. Talk about profit!
There are so many wonderful places to go and beautiful things to see in Rochester. But how many residents take the time to explore these destinations? If Pokemon Go plays even a little role in getting people out of their homes and into our community, it’s a positive thing. The best thing we can do for our city is explore it, search it, find new places, adventures and secrets every time we walk out the front door. Hopefully, this silly little virtual adventure is the first step to helping us all find a new love in the real world of urban exploration in Rochester!