The Pokémon Effect

I gave in. I downloaded PokémonGo. I’ve had it for about ten days now. There are a few things to keep in mind before I go on about my experience:

The majority of the reason that I have a smartphone to begin with is so that I can keep on top of work/school/blogging related things. I don’t really listen to music (though I’m huge on podcasts), and I really, really don’t play games. I don’t play games on my phone, computer, or even own a console of any type. Games are just not my thing.

As far as Pokémon goes, I remember when it first came out in the US twenty years ago. I was far more into pogs than I was Pokémon. I didn’t (and for the most part, still don’t) like animé, and thus really had no interest in this ridiculous thing with silly words attached to it (like “jigglypuff” and “rattata”). I thought that it was just another fad that would fade away, like the giga pets so sadly did. Clearly pogs were far more superior.

Well, that just goes to show how my prediction for trends goes (but you know, I was also nine years old).

Now, that being said, when I started hearing about PokémonGo, I had no interest, and tuned it out like I do the rest of the game fads. Again, I don’t really play video games, or any games aside from poker or chess. But when my friend asked if I wanted to go for a walk with him while he hunted Pokémon, and insisted that I do the same, I gave in to see what the hype is about.

It’s not that great of a game.

You catch these things and they go in a digital ball. Sometimes you can battle. Blah blah blah. It’s not that great.

Except that it’s awesome.

I’m on team Mystic, and level ten at this point. I just catch the dumb things because that’s what I should be doing. But really, I’m in it for the PokéStops, because maybe they’ll give me an egg that I can put in an incubator, which will give me reason to walk 2-10 kilometers. I want to hatch the eggs because it tells me how far I’ve walked, and then I get a prize.

Sure, I can walk without that. I can get a pedometer to let me know how far I’ve walked. No problem. However, having the goal helps. But what helps even more is having the direction.

There have been a great many times when I think that I’d like to go out and do something, go for a walk or whatever. I don’t do it because I don’t know where to go. Washington State, and Bellingham, especially, is phenomenal for forestry, beaches, mountains, and all the trails that go along wit it. It attracts so many out-doorsy people. However, I don’t want to be one of those people, and I get intimidated by people who are. It’s not that I don’t like the woods–I freaking love the woods. But I want to go into the woods to get away from people, not have to worry about getting out of the way of cyclists and watching out for joggers and other peoples’ dogs. I simply want to go and relax and breathe in. Plus, the parking is insane at all the trail heads.

So because of this, I often find myself not going out and not going for walks because I have no direction. Now, PokémonGo does not get me out into the woods. But it gives me direction. I can go wherever the most PokéStops are, and just follow those. I walked nearly four miles yesterday, and nearly another three this morning before I came into work–just because I wanted to hatch the eggs and had direction.

What’s more, after I came home yesterday from my long day of Pokémon hunting, I ate some dinner, relaxed for an hour, and then wanted to go back out and keep walking. It’s not the Pokémon I want, I simply wanted the movement.

That, right there, is why I fully endorse PokémonGo. It’s gotten me off my ass and hooked on the exercise.

And I feel fantastic!

Usually, after working at the farmers market on Saturdays and Sundays, involving 100 miles of driving each day, plus setting up and packing up, loading and unloading, as well as the general drain of customer service, I’m exhausted. But both days I went out and went walking around. Saturday I went to beautiful Boulivard Park and discovered that there’s free live music on Saturdays. I heard a fantastic mamba band and discovered some trails leading to the park that I didn’t know existed.

Yesterday a friend of mine tried to walk from down town to this same park, using a trail I hadn’t been on in six years. We ended up taking the wrong trail which took us through the trees, and we discovered veils of vines dangling from trees in a beautiful display of intermingling life and death. We also discovered a homeless camp, which was fine. We tried not to disturb anyone there. The trail ended up dumping us out on the train tracks. I was mostly certain of where we were, but not 100%. After following the tracks, I figured it out pretty quick.

We discovered that every quarter moon, there is an Astronomy Enthusiast group which meets up and brings a giant telescope out so that people can look at the moon up close. We discovered people playing a Viking game in the park. I have been finding pieces of art that I didn’t even know existed. I have been looking at buildings differently, seeing the graffiti, and realizing that these are pieces of Bellingham that I have been neglecting over the last seven years that I’ve living here.

PokémonGo has brought forth a new awareness of myself and my surroundings that I am very grateful for. No, I don’t battle my Pokémon. No, I don’t evolve them. But I do get outside. I do walk–enough that right now my ass and calves are hurting–and I am remembering why Bellingham is so amazing.

On Monday, a friend and I are talking about hunting around Seattle, and seeing what other fun destinations we can find. It’s giving me something to do this summer. What’s more, I think that when I get to Durham, it’ll be a fantastic way for me to get out and explore my new surroundings.

One of the selling points for me, before I agreed to try it (or rather, what made me decide to try it rather than rebel against my friend and say that I would just walk with him minus the app), was that I had heard of its effects against depression. I go through my bouts, and have my ways to deter it, however, I thought that it might act as another tool. Now that I’ve had it for over a week, I realized that I was depressed and didn’t even know it. Getting out, getting those endorphin from movement–it’s all elevated my mood entirely.

Another fun fact about it, my dad, who’s about to be 70 next month (shh, I didn’t tell you that), is even participating in it–and is not that many levels behind me. I’m looking forward to going to see him in Palm Springs in September so we can go out hunting together (I never thought I’d say I was looking forward to hunting).

Yep. PokémonGo is truly amazing.

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