Ah, Pokémon. It holds a special place in the hearts of many 90s kids, but the latest addition to the franchise has seen a variety of people participating in the gameplay. Everyone from young children to police officers to busy professionals looking for a chance to break away from their desks can be seen wandering sidewalks looking for the cute characters. It also happens to be a great way to get you and your family more active.
Pokémon Go, a new augmented-reality game where users can "see" Pokémon in the real world, has been downloaded more than the popular dating app Tinder and added nearly 11 billion dollars to Nintendo's company value. And it hasn't even been available a whole week.
Players can search the world to find new Pokémon, visit Pokéstops where items like Pokéballs and potions are received, and even challenge other players at Gyms. The huge difference between Pokémon Go and the franchise's previous installations (besides using a phone's camera for augmented-reality), is that it requires you to get outside and walk around. The geo-located map will show nearby playable content for users to visit.
To do almost anything, you must visit different areas—and that means walking. While some Pokémon can be found indoors, several types are located only in certain areas. For example, if you're looking to get a water-type, it's time to give nearby lakes and rivers a visit. Pokéshops are also found at local landmarks and real-life shops, prompting users to get out of the house and explore different parts of their city.
Exploring the outdoors isn't the only exercise-inducing part of Pokémon Go. It also prompts you to walk certain distances to hatch eggs. Eggs, which are randomly received from Pokéshops, require the user to walk varying distances (anywhere between 2km to 10km) to hatch them and discover the Pokémon inside.
While the app is a great combination of gaming and physical activity, it does come with a warning at the beginning telling players to be alert and aware of their surroundings. Reports of robbers in Missouri intentionally targeting Pokémon Go players who were visiting a nearby Pokéshop at night came to light over the weekend.
The solution to these problems? Use your head, and you should be fine. If the app is open, it will vibrate when a Pokémon is nearby, so there's no need to walk with your face glued to the screen. Look around, and be sure you're not close to wandering into a lake or traffic to catch the much-longed-for Pikachu. Don't go any place you normally wouldn't at night (especially if the area is unlit or the real-life store is closed), and make sure to not go alone. It's not worth your safety to gain a few extra Pokémon.
Despite all the media hype of these issues, Pokémon Go is still a great way to get you and your family moving. Seeing that a Charmander is nearby (or that your egg is about to hatch) might be just the motivation you need to get in that morning walk or pre-dinner evening stroll, which can be an effective tool for weight loss and fitness.
Interested in playing? Here's a quick guide to getting started with Pokémon Go.