When I was nine years old, I never thought that at the age of 25, I’d be walking around catching Pokémon in the real world. Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting out of the house at every opportunity to see if I can catch that Magmar that escaped my clutches the other day, or to clock up a few more kilometers to hatch my eggs. I’ve spoken to people I never would have before, and shared friendly rivalries with my husband and friends.
Pokémon GO has achieved something I never thought was possible – it’s brought gaming outside and made it truly sociable. Sure, there’s been a few negative stories, but there are some positive ones too. I spoke to some fellow Pokémon GO players to find out their thoughts about the game, and discovered for some it’s changed their lives for the better.
‘Pokémon GO makes me feel normal’
Jack, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a longtime fan of the Pokémon games, his first being Pokémon Red on the Game Boy. “GO has brought back a lot of good memories,” he says.
Sadly, Jack rarely gets out of the house due to illness. “I really only ever leave the house to go to medical appointments, but in the last week I’ve been on two long walks to go out and play GO,” he told me.
For Jack, walking around outside isn’t easy, both physically and mentally. Pokémon GO has given him, and many others, a reason to get out and exercise more. Its popularity has certainly helped – it’s easier to not feel embarrassed or insecure when you know so many others are playing the same game around you.
“I don’t know if I can keep up with it, I’m using items a lot faster than I’m getting them,” Jack explains. “But it’s been nice to get out of the house and play.
“I walked through a lovely park where I used to play as a young child before I fell unwell. It was relaxing even though my illness makes walking very difficult.”
Pokémon GO has also been a welcome distraction for Jack, as he also plays in the waiting room before his appointment with his therapist. What would usually be a stressful period has become a lot calmer thanks to GO.
It won’t be easy for Jack to keep up this new, positive routine, but it’s clear the game has had a big impact and has motivated him to spend more time outside.
“I’m very uncomfortable around people, but going out and playing it made me feel normal for a short while, and I want to try to keep doing it for as long as I can.”
‘Pokémon GO makes me feel better’
Another player who says Pokémon GO has given them a reason to venture outside the house is Jenivere Stunt, who isn’t letting her disability hold her back.
“Being disabled, I can’t walk far at all and don’t bother going out unless I have a reason to. But now I’m hopping on the mobility scooter and going out a lot, both by myself and also along with friends and my fiance,” she says.
“We even go out after midnight when he finishes work late. It is making me feel better, and got me going out in the cool fresh air at night when I had flu, which helped the fever too.”
Like Jack, Jenivere has found that Pokémon GO has made being around others a lot easier and less stressful. “I’m a bit overly anxious around men to the point of paranoia due to some past experiences, but now I’m a lot calmer with groups of guys on the street if I can see they have their phones out catching Pokémon!”
‘I spend more time with my partner’
Modern life can take its toll on long-term relationships – after a gruelling day at work, all we want to do is sit and watch the TV or play on our smartphones. Rachael Corner admits that Pokémon GO has had a positive impact on the relationship with her partner, as it gives them a reason to go out and about in the evenings, rather than just stay at home.
“Normally, I get in from work at 8, we eat, then sit on separate sofas, look at our respective phones and then go to bed,” she explained. “The first week we got it [Pokémon GO], my partner and I went out for a walk most nights after dinner, giving us more time together.”
Rachael isn’t the only person who’s spent more time with her family and friends thanks to Pokémon GO – the streets have been filled with groups of mates taking on gyms together and parents sharing their childhood love with their little ones. In a world that’s become increasingly dark and difficult, Pokémon GO is a shining light and a wonderful distraction. Though there may be some friendly rivalry between Valor, Mystic and Instinct members, it’s given people some common ground. Everyone from big burly builders to busy office workers has been picking up their phones and flicking balls at Pidgey.
Some may mock Pokémon GO players for being sad or childish, but if it gets gamers outside, exercising and socialising with their neighbours, that can only be a good thing.