Poke what?

by Amy Jacobson Carver, WALC Institute Project and Marketing Coordinator

My family is always the one that appears to arrive "late to the party" and what I really mean by that is, we discover fads or "new fangled stuff" typically on their way out. To provide you with an example, my folks still used flip phones up until two years ago. In the past year, they actually invested in their first iPhone. Let me explain a step further...my sister is nine years older than me and because of that we BOTH got to participate in the bell bottom fad. I had to wear her hand-me-down bell bottom pants from the '70's when I was growing up in the '80's when all my friends were rock'in their Jordache jeans. Needless to say, I  really was never considered "cool." Still not according to my children. In many ways, I was taught to ignore "fads" as they never lasted. How many of you remember Member's Only jackets and those funky parachute pants?

I remember when I read my first Harry Potter book (I was 38 years old), I thought I had unearthed the most amazing adventure EVER (I don't get out much I guess).  My son was in first grade and hated to read so his teacher suggested I try something different and I had heard about this Harry Potter dude from a bookstore. I was told these books involved witches and wizards. I was hesitant to let my son read it as I was under the impression it was something like Dungeons and Dragons, but I decided to give it a try to see if it might encourage him. Well, low and behold, I was the one that ended up devouring the first book and running out to purchase the rest of the series which took me a total of three months to complete.

I will never forget posting a message on my Facebook page proudly telling people how much I loved the new Harry Potter books and then one of my friends snuffed out my enthusiasm by making the snarky comment, "welcome to the '90's" (it was 2010).  So when I heard about this new "revolution" called Pokemon from my now 13 year old son and about how he REALLY wanted to play it, I didn't really understand what the big deal was. What the heck was a Pokemon and why did it need to go anywhere?

Then, one day we were at a park and I saw several groups of people out walking with their phones out, but they weren't just staring at their phones like zombies. Low and behold, they were interacting and moving around together from place to place. I even saw a few "non-conformists" venturing off in a different direction from the pack in order to "capture" something no one else had yet. I was fascinated and because of that curiosity I used the one technical go-to fad research thingy I know. They call it "Google" and so I typed in the words "Pokemon Go." And go that search engine did.

Up popped all these articles about how Pokemon Go was getting people off their couches and outdoors. How "Pokemon Go" single handily was making people actually walk to places so with that I said, "yes," go forth and download my son. And download he did. Now, not all of these Poke stops for these Pokemon are convenient for us, but when we are in larger places such as a public park, theme park or mall there are Pokemon balls and something called gym a plenty, spread through-out the area.

My son teaching his grandmother how to play Pokemon Go.

My son teaching his grandmother how to play Pokemon Go.

My kids like to show me map overview of all the bounty of pokeballs they can collect. Their eyes light up as the virtual hunting begins.

The geek in me needed to know and understand how these Pokemon locations were chosen so I used that awesome tool "Google" again and discovered that public places are the norm for these characters as more people convene in pubic areas.  Seems logical. This is why you'll spot these little critters at museums, historical places, malls and zoos.

The administrators of this game try and keep the Poke stops and  characters away from roadways; however there still is a safety factor involved including folks who try and use their phones will they are driving. The app will discourage users by popping up a message that tells you are going too fast, but then asks if you are a passenger in a car. I know this because I decided to play with my son's app when I was the passenger in a car to see how it responded. 

I do understand where they are going with this; however I'm certain some drivers will lie and tap that "ok" button anyway. It's just as dangerous as texting and driving. This puts drivers, car passengers, pedestrians and anyone else in that general area at risk.

After watching and playing this game, I'm not certain if I would describe this new Pokemon Go as craze, a fad, or even a phenomenon. What I will say is that it has encouraged people who otherwise might just stay inside to get out, walk around and experience their surroundings. Maybe even meet some new folks as I've witnessed complete strangers bounding over finding a Lapras (look it up).

Some of these folks have even lost a few pounds. If you have been fighting it like me, give it a try. The worse thing is that you step into the light for a little while.