Issue 24pulse

Pokemon Go Gets Stanislaus Going

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By Justin Souza

Even if you’ve never touched a video game in your life, chances are good that you know Pokémon. From trading card games to TV shows, movies and video games, those adorable little creatures have been a two-decade long phenomenon that has spanned every form of media. But Pokémon has never made the leap into real life.

Until now.

Pokemon-6Introducing Pokémon GO, a popular new smartphone game that places Pokémon in the real world. In the game, players navigate around the world map by moving in real life. As players move, Pokémon appear randomly on the map on their smartphone screens. Tapping on them takes players into an encounter in which animated Pokémon are overlaid on the real world through the phone’s camera. Pokémon appear to be standing, sitting or flying on everything from sidewalks and parks to players’ own bodies. Between encounters, players can travel to numerous locations around town to check-in at Pokéstops—check-in points placed around real life art, monuments, and murals in the city, where players can receive free items and experience points—or test their Pokémon against other players’ at Pokémon Gyms.

By giving players an ever-updated list of goals— one more check-in, the jumping grass blades of a hidden Pokémon—the game makes the act of walking around a process of discovery. In effect, Pokémon GO gamifies strolling.

According to Robyn Houston, this game is very effective at getting players moving. “My husband and I have walked more than 30 miles since we downloaded the game about a week ago.”

Monique Rojas adds that the game helps her get out of the house. “Pokémon GO has given me the motivation to start going on walks with my two-year-old son. He loves the fresh air and being in nature. I love that I’m getting in shape while playing a game!”

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Pokémon GO is a social phenomenon. More people play the game daily than log in to Twitter or other social apps.

“Pokémon was always about bringing the community together,” says Jeff Laureta, a player from Modesto. “With this particular game, it did just that. Here in Modesto, it spread like wildfire causing Pokémon trainers to leave the comfort of their own homes to pursue Pokémon around our city.”

“A lot of things in my life have changed in a few days of playing this game,” says TJ Isaacs, another player from Stanislaus County. “Pokémon GO has helped me with my anxiety. It gives me something to focus on when I go outside so I don’t get overwhelmed. I can use it as a focal point when I’m out in the world, or in a crowd, or when there’s a lot of noise, and it’s easy to calm myself because I have something familiar to draw myself into to get a handle on things. I’ve already made a couple new friends. It’s just nice to be able to use it to connect with people.”

Whatever else the game does, it’s clear that Pokémon GO is already changing lives.

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