The Pokémon Go smartphone app was released in the U.S. less than a week ago, and — Millennial that I am — I’ve found myself immersed in the “Poké cult.” I have hunted, captured, evolved and battled with the rest of them. I have chosen a team and found myself walking in places at times that are out of the ordinary for me. I can also proudly claim that I have 54 Pokémon in my Pokédex. Although it may seem as though this new sensation is aimed at Millennials, I have some advice to boomers: Give it a shot.
What Is It?
But first, what is Pokémon Go?
For Millennials, they are reminded of the days of watching Ash Ketchum catch and battle the different types of Pokémon in the animated television series.
It’s a location-based augmented reality game, developed by Niantic, that lets you explore your neighborhood and beyond — using your GPS and camera — to capture hundreds of different Pokémon. They can be pretty much anywhere — in your lakes, in the park or at your local gym, for example.
According to an article published by Forbes on July 11, market intelligence firm Sensor Tower estimates that the game has been downloaded more than 7.5 million times, and has earned Niantic $1.6 million daily revenue. That was two days ago. Not bad for an app that’s still poking around to find its legs.
The app’s makers, in fact, are still working out some kinks. Users have complained about problems such as a failure to fully upload the app and glitches that can cause the screen to freeze. Perhaps a bigger concern, Pokémon are showing up in places where they aren’t welcome and are sometimes wholly inappropriate.
The New York Times article reported that Pokémon have been showing up at the Auschwitz memorial in Poland, the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and the National September 11 Memorial in New York, for instance.
Not Just Nostalgia
For Millennials, Pokémon are nostalgic, a reminder of childhood days spent watching Ash Ketchum catch and battle various Pokémon in the animated television series Pokémon; the collectible trading card game and the Gameboy video games. And the sensation that hit in the ’90s is still going strong, and not just because of the new app. Today’s elementary schoolchildren still trade Pokémon cards and play video games — and the app has only increased interest.
So why should a boomer care about this craze?
Well, for starters, it’s free. So what have you got to lose?
But the first real reason is that it’s good exercise. One of the major benefits of this game is that you get lots of steps when you play. In order to “catch ’em all,” users have to get out and go exploring. Many articles, including this one from Minnesota Public Radio, have pointed out that this app is getting some people up off the couch. (For those of you who are already walking plenty, keep up the good work!)
The second reason is it’s a great way to meet and connect with people. Once you start playing, you’ll find yourself talking to others from all walks of life who are also hunting for Pokémon. You might even make a new friend.
And the third reason is it’s a great way to connect with grandchildren and other kids in your life. Ask them what level they are, how many Pokémon they have captured and if they would like to hunt for Pokémon with you. All you have to do is download the app on your smartphone.
How Do I Play?
The game is simple and easy for users of any age. The point is to collect various types of Pokémon by exploring your surroundings. Once you download the app on your mobile device, you sign in and create a character (the options are limited, so it takes only minutes to set up). Then you can begin the hunt.
Start walking and you will see your surroundings on the screen. As you move about, you will come across Pokémon that you can capture. To do so, click on the Pokémon, wait for a little red-and-white ball (a Pokéball) to appear. Catch the Pokémon by throwing the ball at it. To do this, you hold your finger on the ball, swipe up and release. If the ball hits the creature, it is caught and added to your Pokédex.
The Pokémon have various levels of strength. As you get more involved in the game, you may want to trade weaker Pokémon and evolve them into stronger ones.
The higher level they are, the better you will do in nearby PokéGyms, which are action-packed hubs for players superimposed on real-world landmarks. There are also Pokéstops, where you can pick up free items that will help you obtain more of the creatures. If you feel that battling in the PokéGyms isn’t quite your speed, fear not. You can continue evolving your characters by simply walking around.
And if the game still seems a little confusing, ask the nearest kid how to play.