Let me start by saying this is totally all my fault. I saw people talking about the new Pokemon Go game on facebook, so I downloaded it to my phone and thought my six year old son would get a kick out of it. I did not realize that in reality, I was unleashing a potential monster addiction on my family.
I have never played any of the Pokemon video games, nor did I care about the card game, or the TV shows. My my kids have started watching the shows on Netflix, though, and seem to enjoy them. At they very least I knew what a pikachu was… And about Team Rocket, that evil cat thing, and something about a Squirtling Jigglypuff. That is the extent of my pokedeck knowledge.
Our first Pokemon was easy to catch, right on the front porch. A second one was found around the corner of our house, and then a 8 block walk through the neighborhood yielded nothing. Well, nothing except some insights to how dangerous this game could be.
That first time out, I let my son hold the phone. He did not look up from it at all. Even when I made him stop at intersections and told him to put the phone down while crossing the street, one eye was still firmly on the screen. Thankfully, I was with him, holding his hand, and there were no crazy drivers barreling down the street.
Last weekend at Oddmall, we pulled the phone out a few times, checked for Pokemon, found nothing on the radar and put it away. Two days ago we were hunting through the mall for a different sort of rare bird, Skylanders Trap Master figures, and instead stumbled upon some fluffy purple things with fangs. We trapped it, then the phone crashed and it never showed up in our inventory. I figured the novelty just wasn’t there. A total of 2 pokemon, and those in the first ten minutes of playing the game and nothing new since then. Surely, there were not going to be any requests to try again.
I was wrong.
Last night my wife loaded it up on her phone to let my daughter play. She, being a bit older, figured out the lures right off the bat, set one off in the house and caught five or six pokemon right there in her bedroom. My son ran downstairs to get my phone, set off another lure and caught two more pokemon on his own. They were hooked!
This morning my son wakes me up at 8am, asking me to come play video games with him. I told him sure, rolled over and went back to sleep. Evidently he sat there waiting, because at 8:30 he wakes me up again and asks, “Is it time to play Skylanders now?”
“Go play it and let me sleep!”
“I don’t want to play alone. I want to play with you!”
How are you supposed to say no to that? I dragged myself out of bed, brushed my teeth and checked the weather. It was only 76 degrees outside. We really should get out and enjoy the day before it got sweltering hot. So I dressed, told him to put on his shoes, and asked if we could go hunt pokemon instead.
This time, I did things differently. For one, I held the phone. And I did not look at it very often either. It turns out the game will make a noise and vibrate if there is a creature really close by. So it was easy to just hold the phone at my side and only occasionally glance down to make sure the game was still running. When it dinged, I crouched down and handed the phone to my son to find the pokemon with the camera and try to catch it.
We caught three on our half hour walk.
We also explored cool architecture on streets we had never been down in my neighborhood, talked about his plans for trick or treating this year (since he recognized some of the houses from last year), and saw 3 white butterflies, a pair of dragonflies, lots of birds, and a squirrel. He tells me it was his first squirrel sighting ever, which I highly doubt, but he did have fun. We also met neighbors a block away that were getting ready to go out hunting pokemon as well. The mother of the group told us to check the local library too, since there were a lot to be found out there. As if we needed more excuses to go to the library, but it was nice to meet friendly people and chat about this crazy little game. We probably would never have spoken to each other had there not been that conversation starter.
And the best part of all? Our eyes were not glued to the screen!
It was fun, now that I know the best way to play this game. At least the way that works for us. Use it as an excuse to get moving, enjoy the fresh air and the local sights, but keep the screen down until it starts going crazy. After all, the real world is way cooler to look at than a blocky map and some kid in a hat. There are cool white butterflies out there!