Pokémon GO: A Review From A Non-Gamer Dad

I’m not much of a gamer.  Sure, back in the day I loved our Atari 2600 and original Nintendo.  After we had kids we got a Wii and that’s fun to play every so often but it’s sat unplayed (by me) for quite some time.

When I first heard talk about the Pokémon GO game on a few Android podcasts I listen to I thought it sounded interesting. Since it was free I thought I’d check it out… especially with how fast it exploded onto the scene.

In a matter of days it had millions and millions of players around the world. On July 11th I became one of them, less than a week after it became available.

Until now, I had missed everything Pokémon. Never played any of the previous games, or collected the cards, or watched any of the shows or movies.  I wondered if that would have an effect on my enjoyment. The short answer: it made no difference.

What is Pokémon GO?

It’s an augmented reality game you play on your smartphone.  It uses your GPS to know where you are and shows your position on a map.

The game encourages you to get outside and explore your surroundings.  The more you walk the better chance you have of encountering and catching Pokémon.

Pokemon GO Screen grab

Pokémon are fun animal/bug-like creatures that you hunt down and collect.  You capture them by throwing a Poké ball at them.  If you hit it just right the ball opens and locks the Pokémon inside.

Once you have captured one it gets logged in your collection.  From a technology standpoint it’s pretty cool when you encounter a Pokémon.  Your phone will vibrate, and if you choose to, it will show the Pokémon on your screen with your actual real world surroundings.

Here’s the first Pokémon I caught outside our house.

First Pokemon GO capture

Another aspect of the game are Poké stops.  These are points of interest scattered about that you go to to get Poké balls and other “goodies” that will help you in the game.

Once you hit level 5 you can choose to join one of three different teams; Team Mystic (Blue), Team Valor (Red), Team Instinct (Yellow).

I’m to the point in the game where I could choose a team but haven’t done it yet. I’m waiting to see what teams my friends are on. Diehard Pokémon fans will probably pick a team based off personal preference from previous games and experiences.

Once you are on a team you train the Pokémon that you’ve caught to fight at Poké gyms.  This is an aspect of the game that I haven’t gotten into yet but will explore when I have more time.

What is my opinion of Pokémon GO?

I think it’s great!  It encourages players to get outside and explore the real world around them.   From my own experiences I can tell you that when players are out and about… they’re talking to each other.

They’re asking which team each other is on, sharing tips, and where they’ve caught certain Pokémon.

Just this past weekend I saw a grandmother and 2 young elementary aged grandkids exploring a park.  She was sharing their excitement and having fun with them.  I can almost bet that without the game had she suggested they go to the park she would have been greeted with groans of displeasure.

Pokémon GO is having an impact on small businesses.  More people out walking means more traffic to local stores. I even read where one animal shelter is “renting” out their dogs to players. They’ve got a waiting list and have already adopted several dogs.

Are there any parental concerns with Pokémon GO?

If you play with your kids I don’t see any concerns.  Little kids would love walking around Pokémon hunting and collecting.  They wouldn’t even need to know about the fight aspect of it.

Of course, like with most things, people need to use common sense and exercise personal responsibility.  There are a few things to discuss with your older kids if they’re going  to play

  • DO NOT DRIVE AND PLAY.  Let me repeat that. DO NOT DRIVE AND PLAY.
  • Play with a friend.  Walks are more fun with friends.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and don’t bury your face in your screen.

Final thoughts on Pokémon GO?

It’s a fun game that encourages physical activity.  My daughter and I are already planning a walk this weekend to see what Pokémon we can find.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more into the game than her.

We’re also going to combine our playing with some geocaching too!

Don’t let the anti-Pokémon GO, fun haters get to you.  Try it out and see what you think.  You don’t need any prior Pokémon knowledge. Just a willingness to get out and walk.

One thing of note… since you’re using GPS, the screen, and camera, Pokémon GO will take a big hit to your smartphone batter. I’d recommend getting an external battery charger.

Are you Pokémon GO player?  Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts?

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