You’ve probably seen Pokemon GO all over your social media feeds already, or, more than likely, you already ran over someone who was aimlessly walking in the middle of a street while they were on their quest to catch ’em all.
In just a few days, PGO has already become a sensation of sorts.
For those who haven’t ran over someone with their car yet and aren’t aware of what it is, PGO is a FREE game on smartphones (iOS and Android) where you can catch Pokemon in “real life.” The game uses a smartphone’s camera to make a Pokemon appear on screen which you can then capture. The catch (pun 100 percent intended)? From what I can tell, the app uses Google Maps to track your movement in real time, meaning you physically have to travel/walk to a location marked on the map to catch a Pokemon or get items such as Poke Balls among other activities.
I’ll admit PGO isn’t perfect so far (like how about throwing in, gee, I don’t know, tutorials that actually explain a thing or two?), which is an entirely different discussion, but it has accomplished exactly what it set out to do: make people explore the world around them and interact with others; that, and probably make millions from microtransactions.
Being the huge dork I am, I drove to a Kroger store across the street from my work place, after I finished everything up around 10:45 p.m. on Saturday, July 9, to catch a Pokemon. I thought it was a Chansey, but it turned out to be a Poliwag (like I said, the game needs to explain some things better, or rather at all).
After I caught my new amphibious pocket monster, I drove back to my apartment, which is near the “downtown” area in Nacogdoches (Nah-cog-dough-chis, for those attempting to pronounce it), Texas’ oldest town which, fun fact, happens to be celebrating its 300th birthday this year.
Before I got out of my car — and yes, it was parked — I got my phone out to see if there were any Pokemon or locations to get items nearby. I saw this spot near the center of downtown that was lighten up and surrounded by cherry blossoms, which, as I found out, means you can get more and better items.
As I drove to this spot, I saw two people walking outside the mayor’s office with their phones out. I wondered if they were playing PGO, but at around 11 p.m. at that point, I didn’t feel like coming off as some creeper in a car on a Saturday night and asking them “You kids playing with your pocket monsters?”
After I drove past the two and turned a corner to get to my destination, I noticed more and more people in the downtown area. Of the roughly six years I have lived in Nac, I had never seen it that populated at that time when there was no planned event. I was about to turn right to go home, but I noticed three people on the other side of the street with their phones out too. When they crossed to get to my side of the street, I just had to roll down my window and ask if they were playing PGO, and they were. Though it was brief, we talked things like which team we were on (basically between yellow, red and blue colors), which Pokemon we caught and our overall thoughts among other things.
One of the guys also mentioned that a bunch of people were walking all over the Stephen F. Austin State University’s campus, the college nearby and home of the SFA Lumberjacks (you might know my alma mater as that one small-town college that went to the NCAA basketball tournament three years in a row, and our mascot is essentially a human being like from Community when you think about it).
I would have loved to talk more, but just getting off of work is a perfect motivator to retreat to home — and the people I was chatting with didn’t have Pokemon that were catching themselves.
But I thought, even if PGO fades out quickly, its goal was well accomplished — and I don’t mean stumbling upon a dead body in a river (but how hilarious would it be if the Pokemon the person was searching for when this happened was a Ghost type — though it was a water type funny enough).
People are outside of their homes exploring the world around them and with great success. From the glimpses I caught of the strollers out and about, I could see people having face-to-face interactions all while getting exercise — and burning extra calories because of Texas’ Mount Doom-like heat — thanks to PGO. What’s ironic about all of this is people are having conversations in person because of something from a smartphone, and that’s fantastic.
And quite importantly, it’s going to help places like Nacogdoches. Sure, it’s one of those small towns that even though you joke about its size by giving it nicknames such “Nac-o-nowhere,” it has a lot to offer if you do enough digging. I already knew this about the town, but even I was curious about some of the hotspots PGO pointed out, ones I never knew about before. I hope, and truly believe, it will get people to venture out in the town more and visit the numerous places and locales it has to offer, or really wherever you live.
Like I said, Pokemon GO is certainly not a perfect game, but I’m excited to see people involving themselves with the real world because, ironically once again, of a video game, and I truly am ecstatic to see what updates The Pokemon Company and Niantic, Inc., PGO developer, bring to this entertaining experience in the future.
Robbie Key is the chief warden of robbiekeyv.wordpress.com. He is also the assistant news editor for The Daily Sentinel newspaper of Nacogdoches, Texas, Nintendo editor for Analog Addiction, makes occasional videos for his YouTube channel, and if you happen to stumble upon this page and are looking for new media members/writers, check out my LinkedIn profile or my professional works on this website.