Though it’s been linked to stories of crime and danger since its release, the wildfire spread of Pokémon Go’s success has left a sense of community and excitement in its wake, alongside a wave of activity in the mental health community that’s got psychologists and patients talking.
Kayla Johnson, ‘17, shared a explanation as to why she thought the game has been so popular.
“The game feeds off a sense of childhood nostalgia and literally brings these old games to life,” Johnson, an East Asian Studies major who’s currently studying abroad in the game’s birthplace said. “Having that generational bond continue into adulthood is very special, I think. A shared memory with people you don’t even know.”
“I wanted to see what all the hype was about. It also gave my awkward a** something to talk about,” Johnson went on to explain with a laugh, when asked what had drawn her to the game specifically. “Like to bridge the gap with other humans.”
She’s not the only person to use the game in such a way either. An article from The Huffington Post cites thousands of tweets from people expressing how the app gave them a reason to go outside, as well as a stepping stone to talk to new people. Many of these people openly admitted to suffering from some form of mental illness, and praised the game for giving them a boost when it comes to going outside and bonding with others.
“It literally connects everyone. You’re not separated by social gaps or physical ones either because even though they exist, when you go Pokémon hunting everyone has an opportunity to be beat or work together to take down the opposing teams gyms,” Tim Tipton, a Springfield local and member of the military reserves, said in explanation of the game’s wide reach.
The game was crafted with the knowledge that the fans of the original games and show are now adults, and it was designed to bring them back together. Tipton went on to explain, citing night Pokémon hunts with friends as his favorite aspect of the game.
Yet, while the game’s initial popularity may have come from a connection in nostalgia and bonds formed out of affection from the past it’s become something entirely it’s own, Larina Warner, a theater major with a long history with the Pokémon games, insisted when asked about the topic.
“In the past games, to capture Pokémon or train them, you would do simulated battles, and hatch your eggs according to the distance you walked. With the app, it’s in a live space. You have to physically walk and put in the effort to be a trainer. The sense of accomplishment is much higher,” Warner said.
There are, of course, the arguments surrounding the game. Just as you can’t doubt that the game has done good, there has been a lot of bad attention attached to it as well. Examples include midnight Pokémon hunters being robbed at gun point, teenagers being shot after wandering into someone’s property while hunting for that elusive Pikachu and the determined or foolhardy darting into the road for a rare catch only to be hit by someone checking the app while driving.
“The fact that people are blaming the game itself is silly,” Warner said, responding to the game’s critics. “We had this whole debate over texting when it came out too, and we’re still having problems with texting and driving. The problem isn’t the game, it’s the fact that people have stopped paying attention to the outside world. If you ask me, the app is just showing the problems in our society, not causing them.”