Thursday was a beautiful day in my area, and I had the afternoon off. And like many people in my area lately, I chose to use some of my afternoon off not sitting at home playing Overwatch, or binging Netflix, or folding laundry, or taking a nap. Instead, I arranged to meet up with a friend at a local park and play Pokemon GO, the new AR game that was released a week ago and that, really, I shouldn’t have to explain it because if you haven’t heard about it by now probably don’t have the Internet and thus won’t be reading this anyway.
In fact, there’s been a lot of talk about Pokemon GO on the Internet lately, including from people who feel it’s their job to try and shit on other people’s fun. So I thought I’d describe what I saw at the park today and let you decide whether it was a good or a bad experience.
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I saw the sun. I see the sun every day, sure, but I’m one of those pale, burns-easily introverts who doesn’t often like to go out into the sun or do things in the sun. But it was a beautiful day, partly cloudy with a cooling breeze, and so I felt the sun on my face and I enjoyed the warmth.
I saw Chris. He’s a friend whom I normally only hang out with when we’re sharing a D&D table. He’s really into Pokemon GO, though, so he’s the perfect person to hang out with and play. Hanging out with old friends in new situations is always an interesting experience.
I saw a lovely park. Even though it’s nearby, I don’t visit this park nearly often enough. Called Heritage Park, the park is centered around old buildings that reflect some of the history of the area I live in. The park has an old water mill, an old schoolhouse, an old log cabin, an old-fashioned gazebo, a beautiful old church, and even a covered bridge crossing a duck pond. The whole effect is quaintly pleasant, and between the buildings and the trees there is plenty of shade to settle down in for a few minutes when you need to.
I saw lots of other people enjoying the park, too. They may have been people who, like myself, don’t go to the park very often. Or maybe some of them visit every day. Who knows? The point is that we were all there, sharing in both the lovely park and the fun of the game. The crowd seemed to trend towards twentysomethings, but there were both men and women, and some boys and girls, and a family of four, and a parent with a stroller, and a few older people who, like me, were probably too old for Pokemon to have been a part of their childhoods, but whom nevertheless have found enjoyment in the franchise and in the new game.
I saw people chatting casually with other people. Given the nature of the game, Pokemon GO can be a frustratingly single-player experience. But that doesn’t stop people from introducing themselves, from sharing their game experiences, from proclaiming their loyalties (Team Valor FTW!), and from generally just, you know, being social. Given that both the franchise and the game are more likely to attract the kinds of people who are introverted and uncomfortable in large group situations (myself included), to be in a place where I felt comfortable being social is a big deal.
I saw the steps racking up on my FitBit. 2000 or so in the hour and a half I spent at the park. Not a workout by any measure, but 2000 more steps than I’d probably have taken on a normal day at home.
I saw a little ice cream shop in the park. And hey, it was also a Pokestop, so I convinced Chris to buy be a scoop of Superman (it’s a Michigan thing) and we sat in the shop. The girl at the counter, who does not play Pokemon GO herself, said that the shop had been getting a lot more business in the week since the game came out than they had this summer so far. Her boyfriend does play, however, and she told us about how he found a Charmander in his tool box at work.
I saw another couple at the ice cream shop. Younger than me (but not younger than Chris), they were also enjoying some ice cream after walking around the park. We talked Pokemon GO because, you know, that’s what you do when you’re hanging out at the ice cream shop playing Pokemon GO.
I saw an old man in the ice cream shop. He was not playing Pokemon GO but instead just enjoying the day. I got the feeling he came to the park a lot, and he wasn’t quite sure what to make of all the people. We struck up a conversation, and it turned out he knew a lot about the park and the buildings in it. I put down my phone for a little while and listened as he related some of the history of the buildings, and how they had been moved to the park, and from where. It turns out one of the buildings had once stood not far from the house I grew up in; the next time I’m at the park, I’m definitely going to have to take a closer look at that house.
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So, frivolous waste of time? Perhaps. But what do the haters expect? That if we didn’t have Pokemon GO we’d all be out there fixing the world? No, we’d all be finding other things to fill the free time in our lives.
I suppose that one could criticize that it took a “stupid kid’s game” to get me outside and enjoying the park. But who cares? The point is I changed up my routine and had a great afternoon. Mock me for “chasing Pokemon” if you like; meanwhile, I’ll be out here enjoying the scenery, and the company, and the hunt for the elusive Pikachu.