Pokémon exploded during my childhood, but I’d mostly avoided it. I didn’t follow the TV show or trade cards. I knew the basics: Pikachu and MewTwo, Team Rocket, Poké Balls. When I heard about Pokémon GO, I figured I’d pay about as much attention to it as any other piece of the franchise. But if you’ve been near the internet lately, you may have noticed that this isn’t like any other piece of the franchise.
I resisted for a whole five days before I caved and downloaded the app. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal, but “hunting” for Pokémon has gone from a passing interest to a zealous hobby almost overnight. It’s had some fairly… unexpected side effects that you should know about before you jump in.
1. You will get a lot of exercise…
Some lucky people have a spawn point in their houses or live right next to a PokéStop. I’m not one of them. Getting anywhere requires leaving the house — which is literally the point of the game. PokéStops are clustered together as often as not, and there are usually Pokémon or lures (bait set by users or business owners to bring in more critters), so wandering around with the app on is the best way to hunt. I went from doing no cardio whatsoever to essentially walking a 5K yesterday to get Poké Balls and hatch Eggs (each one contains a Pokémon and requires that you go a certain distance at a slow speed, basically guaranteeing exercise at some point).
2. And probably a wicked sunburn (with a side of adventure)
In addition to being not in my apartment, it turns out a lot of the best Pokémon are outdoors. My first real day of Pokémon hunting, I got a text from my neighbors at 7:30 a.m. to join them. Within a couple of hours, I’d caught a dozen Pokémon outside. In summer. In Texas. And we headed over to the community college — in the same slowly burning sunshine — for another few hours of hunting. I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of adventure but was not prepared for the burn. Reapply the sunscreen before you go out so you aren’t a lobster hunting monsters.
3. You’ll see new places
The PokéStops seem pretty random when they’re just blocks on a map, but most of them are actually masterpieces in your own neighborhood. There was a tiny stone fountain with lily pad shapes on the corner of a shopping center, and a vibrant art installation near my office. Although the distinction of “art” and “culture” can be dubious (the Furniture Circus sign has a pretty flimsy aesthetic), there are tiny oeuvres all over town… and they usually dispense Poké Balls.
4. You’ll meet new people
Have you heard that everyone is playing Pokémon GO? Because seriously, everyone is on this game. It’s absurd to go out in public these days. While we wandered the mall one evening, we stopped multiple times to trade strategies with other players. Sometimes we just exchanged knowing nods as someone suddenly stopped walking or frowned at their extended phone and walked with purpose. It’s a public secret, like a handshake or a lapel pin.
5. You’ll feel like a kid again
People think of Pokémon as a kids’ game, and for the most part, this is true. But Pokémon GO isn’t really for the young kids. This game exists for my generation — jaded, disaffected millennials who are underemployed and desperate for some of the magic of youth to come back. While you might still see a few ankle biters chasing Pidgeys, we’re the ones running all over the place, trying to find a Pikachu, battling for Gyms and hitting up all the Stops. So step back, kids. This is our moment. You’ll have your turn.
6. Dating may get easier (… or considerably worse)
I had planned to go on a nice Sunday lunch date. I hadn’t planned to catch Pokémon at the restaurant, but seriously? A Golduck appeared! I’m not made of stone!
Fortunately for me, my date was also a Pokémon GO enthusiast. Unfortunately that meant a date of questionable first decisions, like erratically driving around looking for Pokémon. It can definitely be romantic, but you have to walk around together or at least hand over your phone. After one too many sharp turns and short stops, I realized there wasn’t going to be a second date. But he found a Scyther, so in a way it worked out for both of us.
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7. Leaving the house has never been easier
I hate having to run errands. Putting on pants, going outdoors, interacting with clerks — it’s all just a lot to take on most days. Getting out and about is not high on my priority list when I have free time. But now I can’t resist. Only one roll of toilet paper left? Better go to the grocery store now… and hit up those four Stops for more Poké Balls on the way.
But it’s also heartbreaking
I set my sights on a Pidgey this morning. I caught it five separate times, and each time, it just popped right back out. Then it disappeared completely. I found myself staring at the empty space in front of me with an overwhelming sense of emptiness. How had this happened to me? What had I become, heartbroken at such a failure? Why had it taken me two hours at Walmart to buy six items?
It’s good to take a step back for a few hours at a time and remind myself that there’s a world outside of the Pokémon GO reality, that it isn’t all Stops and Gyms and catching animated creatures on my screen. I try to get back into the news. I read books. I talk to people about things that aren’t remotely related to Pokémon. I’m restoring the balance, but hopefully I’ll keep the exercise. And now, to catch that Rhydon that’s been hiding all afternoon…