I was leaving work yesterday, and two coworkers were chilling outside on the steps of the nearby church.
Both young guys were on their phones. Nothing new there. But as I approached, I heard them talking about the game they were both playing. Some Pokemon game that is GPS integrated, they explained. So as you physically walk in real life, your character moves on the screen. More than that, the game is like Google Maps in that it knows where you are on Earth, allowing it to direct you to community places (like a church), where you can fulfill the game’s mission: attract and capture Pokemon animals.
The game is called Pokemon Go, and suddenly some students at our school walked by playing it. Then another coworker came along with Pokemon on his phone, too. Then our dance team instructor.
I expressed my surprise about everyone out playing the same game, and then one of the first two guys, Nu, our school security guard, pointed across the parking lot to a young guy just hanging out on the corner with his phone.
“He’s probably playing, too,” said Nu matter of factly.
“No way,” I said.
But moments later, as I’m in my car ready to leave, I looked back to see that guy from the corner jogging over to Nu to join a fellow player. I got back out of my car and walked over to the guys.
“Do you know each other?” I asked.
“No,” they said simply, though the girl who now joined them was this new guy’s little sister.
At first struck by this game’s technological capabilities, I now realized its social value bringing people together at these common spots to collect Pokemon.
“Have you met people and made friends playing this game?” I asked.
“Yeah,” said Marcel the new guy without hesitation. “I live in White Bear. Some guys at work were talking about it. Never spoke to them before.”
Now he and they go out on Pokemon Go outings.
“We go hiking everywhere now,” he said. Then he voiced his appreciation for the game because unlike other video games, “it gets people outside.”
I’m a big believer in technology helping humanity evolve to be more social and ultimately peaceful. I just hadn’t seen this potential in how a video game could help do so.