You walk out of your house. You go down the block and take your first left. Then you walk another block and a half. There. There on the corner is what got you out of the house and moving. It's a Meowth, and you don't have one of those yet. But now that you've come all this way, you might as well keep going to see if you can capture that Nidoran that's been evading you.
Sound crazy? Not if you are one of the millions of people that has recently gotten into the Pokémon Go craze. Pokémon Go is an interactive, augmented reality game for your smartphone that can be downloaded from the app store. The game uses map technology to guide the player around the real world in search of virtual creatures. The goal is to "catch 'em all" as the franchise's tag line suggests. But the game does not just keep track of all the Pokémon you have accumulated, it also tracks the distance you have traveled to find them.
Some of the goals in the game are dependent on how much you walk. The app can track your location by knowing how fast you are going. At higher speeds, like if you are in a car, the app limits what interactions you can have with the game. But if you are going at a slower speed, such as a typical walking or running speed, the app lets you achieve goals such as hatching eggs. You also get awarded medals for traveling milestone distances in the game.
The game is a fun way to get people up and outside, and it seems it has been successful in getting people active again. On a recent afternoon, I went to the historical district in downtown Schenectady. Historical districts are Pokémon Go hotspots, with lots of Pokéstops and Gyms, as well as lots of Pokémon to collect. I saw dozens of people, of all ages, out playing the game. It was wonderful to see so many people out and about, especially the young people, but it was a bit odd to see everyone walking around with their face buried in their phone. They weren't seeing any of the beautiful historical sites, they were only witnessing virtual creatures on a smartphone screen.
One added danger to having their faces buried in their phones, as opposed to watching where they were headed, is the potential for accidents. The games opening screen warns users to be aware of their surroundings. There have already been stories in the news of people injuring themselves while playing the game. While the incidents of injury are relatively low when compared to the number of people playing the game overall, it is still important for players to be mindful of their surroundings, to look both ways before crossing the street, and to never play while operating a motor vehicle.
"Making sure you play the game with some common sense is good," according to Dr. Tolentino.
When asked what other advice he would give to players, Dr. Tolentino replied "even when you are out and about, make sure to take some time to also enjoy the surroundings as well."
Pokémon Go is a cultural phenomenon. It is getting people active and interactive, even if it does leave you a little glued to your screen. The game is far from perfect, but it offers people another excuse to get up and get moving in a time when many people sit behind desks or steering wheels for 8-10 hours a day, only to sit down in front of a television for another 3-4 hours each night. Get up, get out, see what all the fun is about and catch 'em all!