What’s Up With the Pokemon Rage?

I have a question for you. Over the last seven days, did you catch Pikachu? How about Squirtle? Or Zubat? No? Well, neither did I.

But it was impossible to miss the newest rage among teens and young adults.

You’ve likely heard or seen the obsession over “Pokemon Go.” A new iteration of the 1990’s Nintendo game was just released on July 6th in the U.S. It’s quickly taking the world over.

Just ask a twenty something.

Both of my kids, ages 28 and 24 are playing, among many of their colleagues and friends, who have jobs and/or attend college. They stop in the middle of their day or after hours at night and just…start playing the game. Within a week of it’s release, more than 5 million people had downloaded the app. Inside and outside. The new iteration has captured the attention of young adults all over, leading Pokemon Go’s servers to crash more than once over the last few days.

To make sure you’re up on this new fad, I thought I’d fill you in on “Pokemon Go,” so you can advise the young adults in your world about its pros and the cons.


In case, “Pokemon Go” is news to you, here is the premise for the game:

  1. As a start, it uses the real world for the game. You enter through an app, and use a GPS system to find those little Pokemon critters. They can be found all over: in parks, restaurants, stores, etc. That’s right. They’re fictional characters that you find in a real location. The goal is to find and catch as many as possible. Nintendo calls it “Augmented Reality.”
  1. It expands the experience far beyond the first Pokemon game, which was bound by a screen and console. Originally, it was played on a Nintendo Gameboy. And while you can certainly play this new version inside, on TV, it’s limitless if you have a smart phone. My son found some critters in our living room, and outside in our front lawn. He also found one in the Popeye’s parking lot.
  1. Players keep score. The more you catch, the more you can move on to new levels. You want to evolve the Pokemon just like in the original, but now through an app on your phone…and all around your world. So, the game combines the real world with a fun fantasy world, and creates a new version of a scavenger hunt. Maybe that’s just it—it’s a new scavenger hunt for a digital generation.

Here’s why “Pokemon Go” became hot in less than one week:

The new Pokemon game basically “gamifies” your life. Whatever you do and wherever you go, you can be playing a game amidst all the activities of your day.

You can easily spot other people playing the game as you go about your day. My son and daughter were out playing and saw a car full of other young adults waving their phones at them—communicating they were playing too.

There are three different teams. You join one of them and then fight for and compete in a gym controlled by one of the teams. You pull for your team and try to push the other teams out of the “gym.” You build a communal identity with your team of people from all over the world.

The theme is just like the original game that came out 20 years ago: “You Gotta Catch ‘Em All.” The slogan was for the TV show, the Nintendo game, and the card game. Now—you have to travel the whole world to catch them all. It fosters a real kind of travel and discovery for the more serious player.

The Dangers?

Players can become so consumed, they forget basics, like looking up before crossing the street. The game can be so preoccupying that one player, Mike Schultz, had an accident on his skateboard because he’d spotted a Pokemon and couldn’t stop quickly enough. Some have had car accidents. Others have been injured walking, or jogging. Sadly, because everyone can see where Pokemon are located, players can be lured into the woods (where a Pokemon character is) and robbed or mugged. Sound ridiculous? It’s already happened. Young players have been injured and have lost money because they unwittingly walked into a trap. Remind your students:

  • Don’t get so caught up in the game that you neglect basic safety.
  • Don’t go out in a dark wooded area alone playing the game.
  • Don’t stare at your phone during a Pokemon hunt while driving.

The Positives?

The game is so enthralling because it positions the original game, once limited to a TV, and becomes an expansion of a player’s horizons. It pushes players outside into the world around them. It’s a new social medium, offering exercise and insights about landmarks, historical sites and news to learn wherever you go. This electronic game is actually fostering people to get to know each other and even get exercise in the process! Some are planning road trips around the game. Remind your students:

  • If you play, do it outside and try expanding your current horizons.
  • If you play, do it with friends, where you can have each other’s backs.
  • If you play, meet new people who share similar interests.

The game actually imagines a new world…

I believe the creators of Pokemon Go had a goal. They imagine a new world where electronic games are played but do not necessarily foster a sedentary lifestyle: “It’s 2020. Pokemon go has been out for four years. There are hundreds of gyms all over the world. Laziness is at an all time low. Presidential candidates are chosen via Pokemon battles. Healthcare is free. More jobs have opened up. Scientists are creating actual Pokemon. Everyone is happy. It’s a new era.”

Maybe not all of that is the world we’d imagine for ourselves, but the point remains. Let’s guide young players to leverage this game to achieve redemptive goals.

What’s Up With the Pokemon Rage?