Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pokemon Go - More Than Just A Game!

When my boys were little - very little, like 5 and 7 years old - everyone was collecting Pokemon Cards and playing the card game that would launch dozens of Nintendo (handheld) games and eventually give rise to what has become a virtual gaming craze - Pokemon Go.  And I am not ashamed to admit that I have been following and enjoying each and every evolution.  

When my son came to visit us in early July, he introduced me to Pokemon Go and I have to admit that, initially, it frightened me.  I didn't like the idea of a game that you played "out in the world".  It felt - well - outside of my comfort zone.  But I followed him around as he picked up poke balls, potions, and raspberries; and caught little critters like Dratini, Oddish, Psyduck, Eevee, and Magikarp and evolved them into their advanced forms - all while walking around and, even better, talking with other Pokemon Go players!  For three fun-filled days, he dazzled me with this new and exciting game.  Besides getting several kilometers of walking in each day, we chatted with other people about what level they were, and where to catch the rarest Pokemon, etc.  At least once each day, we actually sat next to other players and shared information about each other's lives.  It was great and, yes, I quickly became hooked.  

Within a week, I had loaded up a game of my own and began collecting, walking, and meeting other friendly players.  I joined Team Valor (the red team) as my son had, and eventually braved the Gyms, where one can battle other Pokemon and claim sites for their team.  Above is a picture of a Gym - just as I was capturing it.  It was the first one I got and it was very satisfying.  There were 3 Pokemon on it (Team Blue) and I beat each of them, one at a time.  It took 5 of my Pokemon to do so, but once I captured the Gym and claimed it for our team, I placed Tweedle Dum, "one" of my Gyrados on top.  (See below).  

The game is easy to play, although battles can be confusing.  I found I needed some online help before attempting one.  The big thing to keep in mind is that, once the Battle is over and you have won, you need to choose and place a Pokemon on the Gym.  The game does not automatically do that for you.  The actual battle is pretty easy - just keep repeatedly tapping the screen until someone's Pokemon faints.  As I said, it took 5 of mine to "take" the Gym I conquered, but it was worth it.

Pokemon Go is the game you see people playing on their cell phones.  They usually travel in pairs.  And when they find a Pokemon they want, you will see them stop and make a very distinctive upward motion with their index finger on the phone's "screen".  When they catch it, they move on.  If you see someone moving their finger back and forth in a sideways motion, it means they have found a Pokestop and are collecting balls and raspberries (to help them catch Pokemon) and potions and revives (to heal them after a battle).

There are two things I love about this game: 1.) it gets people out of their houses and moving!  Unlike other "video" games, this one requires the player to exercise - sometimes a lot!  And 2.) it is a social game.  As you play - especially in popular locations such as tourist sites - you will find yourself chatting with other players as you walk along catching and fighting Pokemon.  There is a spot in D.C. where there are literally hundreds of people playing every Saturday and Sunday.  It is near a memorial that has fountains, rest rooms,  and a gift shop and, best of all, is near the water.  So the "walking" you do there is both refreshing and filled with things to do and see along the way.  

Pokemon Go is more than a game - it is, like the Wii before it, a way to get exercise.  But unlike the Wii, which can only be played in one spot (usually indoors), this game gets you moving, meeting, and greeting.  Good-bye to sedentary gaming!  Hello world!