It has been just a couple of months since the highly addictive free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game was released in the UK and it’s fair to say it hasn’t been all Pikachus and stardust for everyone. Pokemon GO has already been the victim of controversy, technical failures and mixed opinions from the ever critical human race. Isn’t it supposed to be a bit of fun?
I must admit I have thoroughly enjoyed playing this game, managing to get to Level 21 within a period of a couple of weeks, despite the days (that felt like years) of server issues. So frustrating! It’s nostalgic for my generation yes, I was 7 when Pokemon first launched into our lives and my nickname is Ash (enough said), but after settling into a routine of living and working in the same building, it has given me a reason to go outside. I know I shouldn’t need a reason but let’s be honest, a lot of us are guilty of it, we are tired, we have more important things to do or we simply can’t be bothered to leave the house today. I have ‘taken’ our local gym down the road on the way to the shop many times, when going out for milk or bin bags. Items we needed but would have just done without until the ‘big shop’.
One of the positive things that has come out of this game, in my opinion, is that kids are getting outside again. We have a fairly large area of ‘green’ across the road where we sometimes take the dogs and before Pokemon GO you never saw a kid anywhere near there. I’m going to sound ‘old’ here but when I was a kid we were always outside. Admittedly this is before gaming was such a massive thing and before the internet became what it is today. I remember a time when people were frustrated at computer games keeping their children inside and making them antisocial. Pokemon GO is a game that takes them outside, meeting other kids. They are visiting famous landmarks like libraries, museums, churches and old buildings that, let’s face it, most wouldn’t go near unless being forced on a day trip or for a family occasion. Yes, they are there to catch Pokemon but they know where that place is now because it’s a Pokegym or Pokestop. If you ever say to your kids ‘Meet me outside the *insert landmark* in town’, the chances are they actually know where it is now. Improvement in local Geography skills. Check!.
It was announced in several news publications that the charity NSPCC had called for a ban of the game due to the fact that criminals could use it to lure children. I’m not sure how true this is or how sensationalised it is by the media we all know so well. I personally think it is ludicrous to ban a game like this out of fear. As with anything, of course there are dangers and I am not disputing the wonderful work that NSPCC do in trying to protect children. I just think that we have got to a stage in the modern era that news is so fast moving and can be heard/seen on so many different mediums that we have been instilled with fear to do anything. We are in constant fear of living our lives, of letting children go out to experience the world. There is a common viewpoint that 40/50 years ago the world was safer. Was it? If the news is anything to go by the dangers were the same then as they are now, we are just more aware of it because of the media. It comes down to education, making sure children are aware of the dangers and how to enjoy the game safely. I have no doubt that the developers will continue to integrate safety features such as the ‘pop ups’ that have recently been added and I personally would like to see some sort of ‘parental setting’ installed where you can mark out a boundary for your child and no Pokemon will appear outside of the boundary, making children less likely to wander off. ‘Find my phone’ apps are already a core feature of most modern phones, so as far as safety goes, I think a lot of what can be done is already out there. So with that in mind, let kids be kids. The thing that really warms my heart about this game is the stories of children (and adults) that have conditions such as social anxiety and autism that have been encouraged to go out of the house for the first time in years so they can catch Pokemon. This should be considered no less than a breakthrough in terms of the life changing affects that gaming can have on individuals.
Now let’s get really serious for a moment. Something brand new, exciting and fun for everyone else will always bring with it one thing. Idiots. As a responsible adult I am well aware of dangers that should be ‘common sense’ that inform my decisions while out playing Pokemon Go. Some individuals it seems (and some of the more horrifying stories have been adults, disappointingly) do not have this capacity. I heard a story of a man that abandoned his kids in his car in the middle of a motorway, to take a Pokemon Gym. This was among a collection of hoax stories about Pokemon Go causing various traffic incidents, so it may not be true. If it is true though, I genuinely fear for the future of the human race. I have, however, seen for myself adults walking mindlessly into oncoming traffic staring at their phones and heard genuine stories from people I have met whilst Pokemon Go-ing that full grown men had been starting fights with teenagers over a Pokemon Gym. #facepalm
Let’s follow the Green Cross Code at all times, stop fear mongering and set good examples for the younger generation.
Whether you’re Team Instinct, Mystic or Valour let’s be civil and enjoy some friendly Pokemon Go competition. I’m an Instinct girl myself (pauses for hecklers).
We’ve gotta catch em all so let’s do it safely, together.