“Dad, can we go outside for a PokeWalk?”
Since the moment I introduced my 6 yr old to Pokemon GO, she’s been fascinated by the app. Part of it has to do with the relative ease of use of its design, the other is its spin on augmented reality. She’s known about Pokemon for a couple of years now, having seen commercials for the cartoon and played Smash Bros with me, but she was never really into it. It was just another intellectual property that was competing for her eyeballs with Shopkins and whatever Pixar was promoting.
This time is different. She’s becoming a fan of the little creatures, seeing them everywhere through the lens of the phone as she holds it up to the grass or bushes or sidewalk in front of her.
“There’s one! Aww, it’s just another Pidgey! Boo!”
It’s just another Pidgey.
I admittedly don’t know enough about Pokemon to be considered a fan. I’ve played the games in the past, never being able to last more than a few hours before becoming bored. I know of Pikachu and Charizard and collecting and battling — it’s standard far for any role playing game. There are much better experiences to be found with similar games, frankly. But the IP, and the nostalgia, is so strong. It’s actually perfect. We’ve always thought of Nintendo sitting on a gold mine with their properties, waiting for an opportunity to create an amiibo or a hot new console game or a movie that will most accurately give fanatics what they’ve always wanted.
That’s not necessarily what’s happening here.
Sure, the characters are great, and they’re damn near famous., but there are a bajillion Pokemon games already, including some on app stores the world over, without nearly this much success. The advantage here isn’t in nostalgia for the IP, it’s nostalgia for the experience. Pokemon isn’t about which little monsters you collect, it’s about you collecting little monsters.
And I think that’s what my daughter has latched on to, and what millions (and millions!) of other people the world over are finding out as well.
Pokemon is an easy concept that’s worked well on a Gameboy, a 3DS and even on the Nintendo 64. Pokemon GO manifests that concept in its entirety, pushing it into the real world and real environments and asking players to explore their neighborhoods and towns just to catch a Zubat. It’s rewarding to be outside — we’ve always known that, but GO makes it even more rewarding and extremely easy to get rewarded.
My daughter has been “banned” from using electronics in our house recently. We’ve noticed an uptick in her iPad usage and T viewing while the weather has gotten better outside. Really, it’s a light grounding from using gadgets, since we let her watch what we’re watching and play what we’re playing any ways. We want to get her to understand that moderation is important with whatever she’s doing.
Either way, getting her to go outside is considered a blessing, just as much for us as it is for her.
“Mama, since Dad is mowing the lawn, can you go for a PokeWalk with me?”
She actively asks us to take her on trips through the neighborhood. We bump into other families doing the same thing, many of which we’re meeting for the first time and have small children our daughter’s age. “Woohoo! I found another Weedle! Should we keep it?” Every few minutes she shouts out the name of another Pokemon that she comes across, holding my phone in front of her like a flashlight. “Oh no, there was a big Pokemon shadow but it disappeared! Dad, can we go look for it, please?”
The experience is everything. The ease of use for a 6 year old (and far younger, from what I’ve seen) lets me as a parent have confidence in what she’s doing and help her as she needs it. She’s catching Pokemon, naming them, telling us about them and pretending that they’re playing with each other when we’re not looking. She wants us to take her to the park, to play at night when the stars are out, and (this weekend) to go to our church and see if she can meet more players there. Our church is a Pokegym, currently run by Team Valor, that she insists we (Team Instinct) need to recapture. “Dad, make sure you train the Pokemon at lunch today,” she told me this morning. “Go outside and walk around and see if you can find any more Eevees!”
Last night we walked around our neighborhood a couple of times, totaling somewhere around 3 miles, her little nose buried in the glowing screen of the iPhone. She trips a couple of times, almost dropping the iPhone onto the cement, but doesn’t notice because we’re there guiding her. The week before, we couldn’t get her to walk down the street because she was “bored”.
I don’t know how long this will last. Pokemon GO may be a fleeting moment in the App Store. But for what it’s done to get my daughter outside, and to get her to interact with us instead of being off playing on her own, I’ll give it all the recognition I can.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go on my lunch time walk.