(This article, authored by Amy Knapp, appeared previously on Next Avenue.)
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 an idea that may shock you: I think that everyone should play. Even people much older than I am.
Wait… What is Pokémon Go Again?
Maybe you smashed your iPhone two weeks ago and can’t afford to get a new one. Maybe you’re on some unplugged retreat on an organic farm sipping artisanal kombucha and journaling by a solar-powered lantern at night. But if you’re alive and you have an Internet connection, I’m not really sure why you don’t know the answer to this question.
This location-based augmented reality game, developed by Niantic, 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. #FAIL
Our Nostalgia, Grandma’s CrossFit
For us, 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 your grandma play?
It’s good exercise. 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.
The second reason is it’s a great way to meet and connect with people of all ages. When you play, you wind up talking to people 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 family members. Instead of struggling to find something to talk about when you visit with your family, suddenly you can talk about something that you care about. “What level are you, Grandpa? Would you like to hunt some Pokémon with me?”
It’s hours — possibly years — of family fun. But if you want your parents, grandparents or in-laws to play, just don’t be surprised you need to help them download the app.