Pokemon: Nothing gets people so worked up like others having fun

I don’t play Pokemon Go. My cellphone doesn’t have enough memory even if I had the time.

But I had a short orientation on it with a family member the other day on its benefits, a fact which has been lost in the get-off-my-lawn mentality that greets anything popular, particularly among the young.

But that’s the thing; it’s not just the young. People of all ages, economic, and social spheres, and diverse backgrounds are ending up at the same places, interacting in whatever way Pokemon Go allows, helping each other along the way, and becoming friends.

What exactly is bad about that?

On the Star Tribune’s excellent “10,000 Takes” today, author Vikki Riech didn’t find a group of strangers meeting in Powderhorn Park as anything to be repulsed by.

This group of strangers chatted for a full 30 minutes about the game and all the places they’ve explored while playing. That same guy extolling the qualities of Powderhorn Park talked about strolling through downtown St. Paul over his lunch break. A woman in her 30s mentioned catching a rare Pokemon while walking around Lake Harriet on a gorgeous day. A young guy remarked: “A week ago, I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be sitting in a park with strangers having a great time.”

This was not an isolated incident. My son and I chatted with various players at Minnehaha Falls yesterday and today. One conversation started with, “I just grabbed a Poliwag at the bottom of the Falls.” Then the group of twenty-something guys told us everything else they found, and where. Later an older couple stopped us — they weren’t playing the game but asked if we were. We nodded. They gave us big smiles, wished us good luck and told us to enjoy the day.

She says she’s exchanged more smiles and knowing nods in the last two days than she has in a long time.

And that all happened where the get-a-life types have insisted people should be: outside.

“Get a life and stay out of my yard,” counters James Roy, of East Vancouver, B.C.

His yard was tagged as a Pokemon gym, whatever that is. So he made a sign you’ve probably seen in your news feed.


“These are not four or five sure-footed 12-year-olds. These are big stomping old men that haven’t really been outside from their mother’s basement in the last 10 years until the internet gave them permission,” said Roy, who is 38.

The reaction to his sign, too, has been over the top.

“This is not some old man taking Halloween candy away from kids,” he tells the CBC. “These are grown men and they were all men. I’ve heard of cases where people were telling [gamers] to f-off and stuff I just put up a note. Which is much more Canadian?”

At Forbes, Bernard Marr worries about the data gamers are giving up in exchange for entertainment.

“As a whole, we do not educate ourselves, nor even concern ourselves with the information we’re giving away. Not until some interested computer scientist, journalist, or hacker discovers the distasteful truth is there any kind of outcry,” he writes.

“We are a bunch of people having fun,” Ash Fedanzo, 31, said in Chicago on Sunday. “With all the negativity in the world, I think that playing Pokémon Go is unifying.”

The 5,000 people who showed up for a Pokemon crawl agreed.

  • Meh, just stay safe while hunting around for the digital creatures, please stay off of private property, and don’t destroy things…

    /Sometime Geocacher here

    • John

      I hadn’t thought of that. This is pretty much geocaching, simplified, and with virtual treasures.

  • Jeff

    I was out for a walk with the dog last night and I walked past a park around 8 pm and it was relatively empty (had my phone up to hit all the pokestops there) but when I went by that same park at around 9 pm I saw about 10-15 kids out there and they set up “lures” (items that produce more pokemon) at all the pokestops. Good for them, I see no reason to get angry with them, those parks would just sit empty at that time anyway…and I’d like to thank them for bringing a few more pokemon into that area.

  • Jerry

    What’s wrong with these people, being outside, walking, getting to know their neighborhoods and cities? Don’t they realise they should be watching several hours of TV a night, like real adults do?

  • Thomas Mercier

    All the stories about the digital realm killing the sense of community and then a digital game comes along that builds community and all of a sudden it’s seen as a bad thing by grumpy old men lamenting a lack of community values.
    P.S. I had a great bike ride into work today although it took me way to long cause I had to keep stopping to restock or catch more Pokémon. But I did reach level 12 this morning so there’s that.

    • A reminder: the grumpy old man here is 38.

      • Jerry

        Grumpy old man is a state of mind, not age.

      • John

        wait – the guy from Vancouver? Dang! I have to up my game. I only have a year to reach that kind of epic pointless grumpitude.

      • Thomas Mercier

        I’m only 34 so he’s at least older than me. And I feel he could have made the same point with less judgment based on experience. Sounds like grumpy oldness to me.

  • Robert Moffitt

    One of my co-workers has a police reservist spouse, who was up to the wee hours last weekend chasing PG players out of a city park after closing hours. I don’t see the appeal myself, but I’m not posting any “get off my lawn signs.” Yet.

  • John

    Is the game itself pointless? Probably. Most of them are, in a strict sense of the word, I suppose.

    I don’t play the game. I don’t have any desire to -I’ve been working too hard on becoming a grumpy old man to risk losing that to any current fad/phenomenon. That being said, my 11 year old asked if he could download it onto my phone, and give it a try. Now I only have visitation rights when I’m at work, or the battery is dead.

    You know what – he seems to be having a great time. He’s hung out with friends that he hasn’t really seen much this summer. (“Dad, can you text XXX’s mom, and see if XXX can meet me at the pond to do some Pokemon?”) He’s out in the neighborhood without an escort (something he’s not really been in favor of before – for no good reason), and he’s complaining at bed time about how he’s so tired he can hardly climb the ladder to his loft. Yesterday evening after his first (of two) outings to hunt, he told me the Lacrosse team was practicing in the park, and he sat and watched them play for a while. Every single thing here is great, as far as I’m concerned.

    So, the game is pointless, but the side effects of the game are largely positive, from what I can see. Now we just have to get people to look up and not walk into traffic. Most of them were doing that before though – we just have a new thing to blame.

    Now, please kindly remove yourself from my lawn. (still working on the grumpy old man thing)

    • Monopoly is pointless, too. Although I’m sure I benefited from Risk somewhat. I could probably pick out Irkutsk on a map.

      • John

        Much of what I do in a given day is pointless as well. At least these folks are having fun while doing nothing of consequence. I often wish I could be.

        Also – who didn’t expect rage filled blowback from (mostly) old people? This is the internet – we hate everything here(tm).

  • MarkUp

    A month ago I set up an online dating account. Some women are stating in their profiles “I’ll go on a pokemon hunt with you” before “let’s get a drink somewhere” like it’s their preferred date. I feel like they’re giving me permission to be a geek.

    • Kassie

      Really? I always thought the number one rule for women in online dating was safety. I would not Pokemon with a man on a first date, too easy to be lured to an unsafe location.

      • John

        I was just going to put – probably safer than going for a drink too – Happens in a public place (parks and whatnot). There are likely lots of other pokemon hunters around. No chance of date rape drugs, since no drink to slip it into.

        Perspective, I guess.

      • MarkUp

        Based on what I’ve seen, I think it falls somewhere between possible 3rd date activity and grounds for divorce.

        • Jigglypuff is the new second base.

          • wjc

            That one hurt, man!

          • BJ


            Sounds like nick name for second base.

          • Tyler

            You’re a lot more hip than you let on, Bob!

          • jon

            Now I want to know (though am not willing to search at work) to see if any one has defined rules for Strip Pokemon Go.

  • Leann Olsen

    I love that shelters are getting in on the action to get people to walk the dogs, but don’t forget the other possibilities. With a hectic life we are often going out on Pokemon walks rather spur of the moment. All I have to do is start up my Walk For A Dog app to walk my virtual dog “Cassie” (she’s a foxhoud/border collie mix) and I’m raising money through WoofTrax for the Golden Valley Animal Human Society. This app lets you choose any shelter you want to raise money for. It could be a local shelter or an organization that trains service animals or MN SNAP. I can’t have my own rescue pup yet and I can’t get to the human society on their preferred schedule, but I can do this. My kids rarely go out to play because we live in North Minneapolis and it has just gotten worse and worse this year. Now they have a reason to go out and explore other parts of the city and we can pick and choose where we go and play. (Not that we’d be worried about playing in a “bad neighborhood.” It’s already well-documented that low-income areas and neighborhoods that are not predominantly white are largely ignored in the game. Check out the hashtag on Twitter #MyPokehood.)

  • Ryan Johnson

    Turns out the VFW up the street and around the corner is a pokestop.

  • Kurt O

    It’s been beneficial for some kids with autism and anxiety. They are motivated to get out of the house and interact with people. It gives them an ice breaker topic.

    I was thinking that Pokemon Go could be a great way to build trust between police and the communities they work in: Police could set up tables with snacks or something at a location and meet with people when they’re having fun.

    When I was growing up in Milwaukee, and the Brewers were good, the police had baseball cards they’d give to kids who flagged them down when they were on patrol. They’d chat with us for a while when they stopped. Imagine kids chasing down police to talk to them!

    • Leann Olsen

      We have that! It’s called Bike Cops for Kids. They give out helmets, water bottles and sometimes even bikes for kids who have had theirs stolen or just haven’t had their own. They go to Minneapolis schools and read with kids, play pick-up basketball games and just talk to kids waiting for the school bus. It’s a great thing to follow on social media in these depressing and difficult times. They even have their own “food truck” now so they can bring more stuff and ice cream to kids all over.

  • Anna

    I’ve done geocaching in the past and it is really entertaining. A friend and I did one at Antietam and learned quite a bit of Civil War history in the process. We used his geo compass and had a great day exploring the battlefield.

    While I worry about people focusing too much on their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings (vehicles and fellow pedestrians come to mind here), if it will bring people together for friendship and getting acquainted, it will be an improvement over people texting in restaurants, concerts and church.

    I could see high school history classes going on field trips using Pokemon Go to explore historic sites and parks.