The world is a scary place right now. It’s always been scary to a degree, but this past month has been especially bloody and fear ridden. News coverage is a perpetual stream of updates on terror attacks and hate crimes. It’s beyond the “if it bleeds, it leads” adage. There doesn’t seem to be much else to talk about. To let this constant stream of darkness inhabit your mind would be overwhelming; we have to find other things to occupy our time with when we can.
In the middle of all the hate, a game has brought a little happiness back to the world. I’m talking about Pokémon Go.
This little (er- ok, it’s pretty big) game has brought common ground. Yet, there are people bashing it. Not only that, some are circulating the idea that Pokémon is demonic. Again. This went around when I was little during the first wave of popularity, and is the reason I’ve had to learn the lore from scratch now. My mom has tried to tell younger homeschooling mom’s that it was ridiculous when they believed it then and it’s ridiculous now, but people are often reluctant to listen. While this may seem like a small thing, when compounded, the little things I and others raised in similar environments weren’t allowed to do build up to create a feeling of outsiderness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried because I just want to relate to normal people for once. Having this game has given me an activity to do with my peers.
While this game has stirred up feelings, it has also given many of us a chance to reclaim some childhood. But we aren’t the only ones who have benefitted.
There are many people who find interacting, or even getting out of the house, an insurmountable task. Tumblr is abuzz with narratives of people with mental illness finding the motivation to get outside. Well-meaning friends and relatives will often tell someone with depression or anxiety to “just get some fresh air” or “get out of the house,” but these illnesses leave you drained. When the prospect of getting out of bed is overwhelming, the idea of taking a walk is incomprehensible. For some, this game has provided motivation to do things that help our mental and physical health. The game is designed in such a way that you can’t really play efficiently without walking. Different Pokémon are found in different places, so you’re probably not going to find a water type in the middle of a subdivision unless you have a lake nearby. One of the best ways to collect some types of Pokémon is to hatch eggs. You do this by walking. It’s not that we don’t know that fresh air and exercise can help with mental illness; it’s that sometimes that illness takes away the ability to seek those things out.
This morning my facebook feed was graced with the appearance of this image. It’s the mother of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, telling about how her son has found connection through this game. The comments have other people with ASD talking about how it has helped them socialize. Go ahead and click the link, first hand experience is more meaningful than my reiteration.
Pokémon Go has brought people together. Families are going on outings. People are making friends.
From the writing studio where I work, you can see a Pokéstop. You can also reach it with your phone, which is awesome because the nearest one to my house is a 10 minute drive away. Just in the first week after the game’s release, there have been so many families with small children, and some with older teens, out hunting Pokémon together. I don’t know about you, but a family all being engaged in the same thing isn’t something I see all that often. Not on this scale, anyway.
Sure, there have been incidents. People have done stupid things. But before you talk about “how stupid it is” and “it’s just a game,” take a minute to think. Even with the seeming division of team rivalries, Pokémon Go is doing a lot more good than bad, and I don’t think it could have come at a better time.