GUEST EDITORIAL: Pokémon Go gets players out and about

Urgently, secretly, behind closed doors a few years ago, doctors, personal trainers and fed-up parents must have hatched the idea behind “Pokémon Go.”

There is no better explanation of a game designed to get teens and young adults off the couch, launching their squinting, sunlight-shy eyes out into nature, onto city sidewalks, walking their community parks, campuses, neighborhoods. Yes, they are still looking at tiny screens and grunting, but they are no longer hiding indoors.

With all the young people suddenly walking around at all hours, it’s been a bit like a colorized version of “Night of the Living Dead” without the messy zombie feedings.

Of course, game developers will get the credit for coming up with the app that marries animated game characters to real-world locations, but parents and medical professionals who have been lecturing young people about the benefits of exercise and the outdoors until they are hoarse are the ones who desperately needed this game to be invented.

Somehow, even though the game is based on the game cards introduced here in the late 1990s, teens don’t automatically dismiss it as child’s play.

Since the app recently launched, young people rarely seen walking anywhere except to and from vehicles are walking around looking for Pokémon characters. They are going to places they never thought to go, they are mobile for hours at a time, and they are putting down the junk food.

So even though news reports have surfaced about “Pokémon Go” participants driving vehicles and bicycles while playing, or congregating at inappropriate places such as cemeteries and memorial museums, or preying on other players, overall the fact at least 21 million users are playing and remaining relatively unscathed is a positive thing.

If walking around to “catch ’em all” means getting young people to move as well as to experience new surroundings, then let’s hope the next version has an infinite number of critters to catch.

— Mankato Free Press
Mankato, Minnesota