You don’t need to be a parent or a kid to have heard/read/seen the words “Pokemon Go” a million times since the app’s July 6th launch. The app that has turned into a world-wide phenomenon is based on the mid-’90s video and card game, and is akin to geocaching. Users head out (yeah, like outside) to find Pokestops (a place to find items for the game), to find Pokemon (characters used within the game) and then to find Gyms (don’t worry, the walking is the extent of the workout) where you can use your newfound stable of oddly named characters to battle others. Of course, everything I’m talking about is virtual. The characters and items are all in your phone, and the only real-life component is proximity to their location. You have to actually be near these Pokestops to get the goods and you often need to hunt around to find the actual Pokemon characters.
I think the first thing to discuss are the privacy concerns for those of us who read that Pokemon Go had full access to our Google accounts. Originally, downloading the game caused some to grant the app access to anything in our Google accounts (email, documents, pictures, calendar). Since realizing this, the parent company, Niantic, has sent out on update for the iOS users affected. I installed the update and checked my Google permissions and am happy to report that “full” access was downgraded to access of basic account info (user ID and email address).
We are in the 10-and-under crowd and so we are a two Pokemon Go app household. The parents have it on their phones and the kids have to share with us, which is consistently bemoaned by the shortest member of our crew who can’t see our screens. Since downloading the game, which now boasts more users than Twitter, we have joined the ranks of the people chasing Pikachus and Charmanders at places/Pokestops like Sierra Park, Lynndale Park, and the Edmonds Senior Center parking lot. We have unwittingly walked over a mile after dinner, which makes bedtime easier and it’s been nice to all have something in common to talk about.
It’s clearly not just us. We have seen people of all ages doing the required walking to incubate their eggs as they follow “lures” with promises of these Pocket Monsters. Since the distances are measured in kilometers, I’ve read in more than one place that the game is forcing Americans to learn the metric system. I know it’s true for us. I have to walk a 5k to progress in a portion of the game and before settling in to start this column in the Edmonds Library (a Pokestop), I took a lap around it to see what I could find!
Another positive side effect is that people with mental health issues like depression or PTSD are reporting benefits of the app on social media. I can really see why. This weekend at the store I ended up in a little pow wow with the teenage bagger (who normally “can’t even”) and the checker because their parking lot had a bunch of good ones. I’ve also shared knowing glances with parents, and my oldest was shouting to all kinds of people on the beach, “Hey, you playing Pokemon Go?”
In this same beach trip I even had a conversation with the Edmonds Beach Temperature-Taker Dude, I wish I could report this was Pokemon Go related, but it was about the temperature and his daily ritual. I fully suggest stopping him the next time you see him.
Considering the game’s use of GPS technology (I mean, they have my whole neighborhood mapped out perfectly), there have been some not-so-fun stories related to the app’s popularity as well. CNN reported that a user found a dead body searching for a “water” Pokemon and that some opportunistic criminals added the in-game “lure” option at Pokestops to, well, lure players to an area and then rob them. I haven’t felt unsafe at any of the locations we’ve visited, but definitely can see that those visiting more remote locations at off hours could be making themselves vulnerable.
Just like the loading screen of the app says, “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.” If you are in Edmonds, this means staying off the fishing pier while it’s under construction. Edmonds PD says, “The Pokemon will hopefully be there when it reopens.”
MLTnews is using the hashtag #PokemonGoMLT on Twitter and Instagram to connect Pokemon Go players in Mountlake Terrace. Use it to find and share Pokestops and please let me know where you finally found that Pikachu!
Jen Marx, a mom of two young boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time. You can find her on Twitter trying to make sense of begging kids to ” just eat the mac n cheese” @jen_marx.