It has nothing to do with protests or tragedy. There are no diseases or mysterious illnesses associated with it and for the most part, it will not cause harm to any of the people participating in its adventures.
It does not cause depression, in fact, it is having quite the opposite effect on its players becoming something of a bright spot in a world so filled with negativity.
The game is Pokemon Go, a free-to-play location-based augmented reality game.
The Pokemon Company has been around for a little more than 20 years, since its origin as a Japanese consortium with characters originally called Pocket Monsters or simply Pokemon for short. Although its popularity waned, it never went away completely.
Pokemon Go has resurrected the popular franchise and has done it seemingly overnight.
The game — released July 6 — has been downloaded somewhere between 10-50 million times according to its Google Play store page and that is only counting Android users in the U.S. It currently has 11 million active daily users.
The game uses the camera, GPS and clock on a player’s phone. The GPS and clock allow a player’s phone to detect where that player is in the real world and at what time. The virtual creatures will appear for the player to catch them and which Pokemon pops up is dependent on the player’s position and the time of day.
It has been hugely popular with teenagers and adults alike in Altus with meet-ups happening around the city park and in various other locations.
There are PokeStops — notable locations in town — where players can go to collect additional Poke balls and eggs that can hatch into full Pokemon as well as gyms where players can go to battle other players for Team Instinct, Mystic or Valor supremacy.
However, the game has contributed more to the gaming community so far than just another fun hand-held game to play. It turns out, players are getting exercise and making friends.
“It has gotten me more active and I have actually been using my stroller for my daughter,” said player Gabby Shelton. “It has been a great way to make friends and it’s a relief to be more open with my hobby of playing Pokemon. Every now and then I do see people actually pick up litter. I’m pretty sure I’ve made more new friends this way than I have in the past three or so years.”
These sentiments have been echoed by many of its players.
”It has brought my family and I closer,” said Mike Hocker. “I have two kids — a five-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son — and a wife. We like to go to the park when it’s nice and cool and walk around for about an hour. It gives us great exercise and gives me a better connection with my family because I work a lot and so I barely have any time to get to enjoy being around them and this game has helped us get out of the house and do things as a family.”
Because of how the game is built to be played, players cannot catch a variety of Pokemon from one location. The game requires the player to get outside and walk, with some participants walking many miles a day to find their next big Pokemon.
It gets gamers off of their couches and into the world. It has provided exercise to so many without ever actually feeling like exercise.
Players have become active again and have come together in large groups, using the game as a bonding experience. Many people enjoy it because it has given them more things to do around Altus in the summer months.
However, it is also very important to shed light on the very real dangers faced by players.
Just recently in Missouri, a group of people used a “lure” item to bring people to their location and then they robbed them.
Players should also never drive while playing and always watch out where they are walking. It is a game and should be treated as such. Players should never lose focus of their surroundings.
Whether somebody wants to download the game and play it for the exercise, social experience, nostalgia or just to see what the hype is all about, Pokemon Go is for everybody.
The Pokemon Go Altus OK Facebook group of Altus is planning an event July 23. Look them up for more information.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.