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Posted November 26, 2016 by Scott Gerhardt in Video Games

Pokemon Go and Dating

So, shortly after Pokemon GO came out, I found myself single.  These two events are unrelated, but I found myself immersed in this world unlike any other.  I often hesitate to call Pokemon GO a game because of the various components involved.  I feel like it’s more of an adventure than a game.  One thing that I have found, though, is that when you are dating, mentioning Pokemon is a pretty quick way to not get another date.  People who don’t understand the game and the concepts are more than likely going to see it as some silly kids game.  So how do you introduce the game to someone who has no idea what it is, and is likely to not give it (or you) a second thought if not presented correctly.  So, let this be a guide to help you ease your date into what PoGo is and why its one of the most awesome things out there.

What is Pokemon Go?

That’s the base starter question.  The first thing you have to do is explain what augmented reality is if someone doesn’t know.  Where reality is, well, reality, and virtual reality is something without a basis in the real world, augmented reality falls somewhere in the middle.  Basically, it takes everything we see and are around in everyday life, and puts a digital layer on top of that.  Of course, the only way to actually see this layer is through your iPhone or Android.

Once that concept is understood, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality experience where you play the role of a Pokemon Trainer and you are out trying to hunt down, power up, and battle with your Pokemon?  This concept was originally started with the GameBoy games many years ago where you controlled a trainer.  Now, you ARE the trainer.

Well, what is a Pokemon?

Okay, maybe THIS is the base starter question.  It’s kinda sorta short for Pocket Monsters.  They are various creatures that often resemble animals you would see in the real world.  Some Pokemon can start at a weak form, and actually evolve once, or even twice into much stronger forms.  Some Pokemon don’t evolve at all.  As of the writing of this article, there are 146 Pokemon you can catch, though if you don’t leave your respective continent, only 143, since 4 Pokemon are continent specific for North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia.

That’s nice and all, but why would you want to play a kid’s game?

Well, that’s a funny question.  While I will somewhere admit the Pokemon concept IS a kids/young adults thing, it was a kids thing/young adult thing from the late 90’s into early 2000s.  So it’s been around a little more than 20 years.  So, those 16 year old kids are now 36 and may even have kids of their own.  There is a strong, strong nostalgia factor for a lot of us.  That said, I’ve seen 4 year olds play it, and I’ve seen people in their 80’s playing it (they may have been older, but I’m not asking).

Okay, you said it’s more than just a game.  Why?

I’ve been in and around the gaming industry nearly my entire life.  I was playing gaming consoles when I was 3 years old.  With a few exceptions, video games are stationary activities – you sit and you play.  There are some exceptions for some console games, but even then, you may be moving your body, but your body isn’t going anywhere.  That is where this game becomes radically different.  Unless you’re a cheater (and I refuse to cover this), you have to actually leave your house and go out into the real world to play the game.  You are out of your house among the rest of the world playing this game.  Besides being fun, there are a LOT of other effects that people don’t think of, especially for those whom have mental health challenges.

  1. The Sun is a natural antidepressant.  Simply being out and in the sun is going to help make you less depressed by increasing the serotonin levels in your brain.  It’s a great source of Vitamin D as well.  Just remember that if you’re going to be out, especially in the hot summer months, use sunscreen so those healthy sun rays don’t become harmful.
  2. Exercise.  I can tell you that I used to average 3000-4000 steps a day.  Now, I average somewhere around 15,000-20,000, with one day hitting almost 40,000.  I’ve personally lost 30 pounds since playing the game.  Especially if you’re not the kind of person who gets much exercise, doing this can really help get you into shape, increase your cardiovascular health, and overall just get the benefits of exercising all while playing a game.
  3. It’s a highly social game.  Things you see in the game are the same things everyone else sees in the game.  So, it behooves you to talk with and work with other people to track down harder-to-find Pokemon.  I personally have and have seen many people “call out” Pokemon they see to help everyone else out around them.  This gets people talking.  It’s amazingly good for people with Social Anxiety Disorder or PTSD.  Plus who knows – you may just make a new friend.  I’ve probably added about 10 people to my Facebook friends list just from people I met playing the game
  4. It lets you be a tourist in your own town.  Many of the Pokestops and Pokegyms are various city landmarks.  The could be businesses, plaques, statues, murals, or all sorts of things that you may have never even realized were around you.

Wait – Poke Stops and Poke Gyms?  Back this train up some and give me some more details.

Okay, so there are 3 relevant things you will find in the augmented reality:  Pokemon, Poke Stops, and Poke Gyms.  Pokemon are found in the wild and can be almost anywhere, though environmental factors certainly can play a role, like water Pokemon being closer water usually.  They will appear for a certain period of time, then disappear.  When you find a Pokemon, you have to engage it and throw a Pokeball at it.  If the Pokeball catches the Pokemon, it is yours.  If not, try throwing another one.  Pokestops are places you get resources.  Represented by small blue (or purple if recently used) landmarks, when you’re close to one, roughly 40m or so, the top will change and you will see a giant circle.  From there, you can touch it, and once the circle gets big with a picture of the landmark in the center, you swipe left or right, causing it to spin.  It will turn purple and spit out 3 or more items.  This is the primary way you get Pokeballs.  There are other items you can get as well, but for the purposes of this article, they are not relevant.  Pokegyms are very large landmarks that are generally either yellow (hopefully they are yellow, but I am admittedly biased), red, or blue.  This is where people go to battle other people, either to strengthen a gym their team controls or try to take away a gym another team controls.

Hang on.  Teams?  You didn’t say anything about teams.

(note:  this section contains quite a few editorial comments, just so that is understood.

In the game, there are three teams.  The yellow team is Team Instinct.  Even though we are typically the minority, we are the coolest and best team out there.  If you’re a cool kid, you’re Team Instinct.  If you’re a REALLY cool kid, you’re wearing a really cool Team Instinct shirt.  The blue team is Team Mystic.  They’re okay.  Definitely not the worst choice you can make, but you’re certainly not in the cool club.  The red team is Team Valor.  They are mostly made up of bullies, thugs, and hooligans just trying to spread their warmongering to the rest of the world.  They also may have been responsible for 9/11 – we’re still looking into that.

Okay, (mostly) kidding aside, there is no particular tactical advantage to being on a particular team, except that you will then be a part of that team for taking down gyms, which is really the only major thing involved with being a team right now.  There does tend to be a lot of team pride, though.  You make a team choice when you hit level 5.  My recommendation is to choose whatever team your friends or people you’re going to be playing with are on.  That allows you to collaborate on taking down gyms and has an overall sense of comradery.  If you are going to be playing with a significant other, for the love of god choose whatever team they are already on.  If you’re both choosing together or just don’t know which way to go, go Instinct because, well, you’re cool, right?

Why should I be on the same team as my significant other…wait….how am I even going to get my significant other to play?

Ah – now we get into the real meat and potatoes here.  All of these social things I have mentioned above – they work for a group of two people as well.  You go out for walks together, try to hunt things down together, maybe stop at the ice cream place together.  For me, I feel like it strengthens bonds by getting two people working together on a common goal.  If you’re the same team as your partner, then you can always double team opposing gyms to take them down faster and can work to build up one of your own even faster.  Everything you do with one helps the other.  This bond strengthening goes beyond romantic relationships are well.  I’ve said I feel its fantastic when parents play with their kids.  It’s a tremendous bonding experience and one of those things that become ingrained as part of childhood memories.  It works the same way in romantic relationships.  You’ll be able to talk later about where you were when you caught that first Dragonite, or how you both ran down the street for the Charizard, only for it to just get away, leaving you both there in each others’ arms sobbing uncontrollably….then you went into McDonalds for some fries and everything was better,

You don’t have to be a “gamer” to play this game.  I even use the following point:  A couple years back I did a podcast episode with a friend from high school.  I made the claim that EVERYONE is a gamer of some form or fashion.  He spent the entire episode to try to show me how he wasn’t a gamer at all, not even a little bit.  By the way, him and his girlfriend now play this.  Hi Mark, I win.  No one is going to make fun of you for playing this.  It’s all over the place, and even though it has had a temporary downturn in players due to seasonal stuff, just about everyone has at least heard of it and probably knows at least someone who plays.

Okay Scott.  Well, this is great and all, but you’re not going on the date with me – how do I get the message to my new future spouse without it being a turn-off.

Well, in a perfect world, bring up this article and have them read it.  Unless you’re actually dating me, that’s not likely to happen.  I would generally tell them something along the lines of this:

“Pokemon is a game that appeals to and is played by men and women of all ages.  It utilizes simply game play mechanics that anyone can understand regardless of their background.  It promotes being healthy and being social. Pokemon is more of a portal to experiencing life outside the house and being able to do it with friends, family, and significant others.  It’s not just a kid’s game or a degenerate gamer’s game.  Its good, wholesome family-friendly fun that brings people together and strengthens bonds.  I understand if you may not completely understand the concepts, but if you will give me the chance, I’d like to show you why I play it and why I think it would be great if you played it with me.”

Now memorize that and get back to me….or use whatever wording you want.  The trick is to get them to not dismiss the idea behind the game before they’ve had a chance to experience.  Try to take them on a 5 or 10 minute Pokewalk and show them the gameplay and show them some of the contents.  If you can get them to download the game and play those 5 or 10 minutes with you, even better.  I have found many of the people I have seen give the game a real try actually do love it and play it.  At the very least, you want them to understand it and be okay with the fact that you play it.  And I hate to sound like a jerk here, but if you really go at it from this angle and they still are completely dismissive of the idea, won’t even try to watch, and think lesser of you for being a part of it, let that one get away – they are doing you a favor.

So I suspect I will change this article some as time goes on to either add in new sections, edit others, or make general changes so you have the best chance to get your potential partner excited by the idea, rather than turned off by it.

Until next time, keep playing everyone!

Scott Gerhardt

Scott has....thoughts. They can be about this, that, or just about anything. Seldom at a loss for words, you can find his thoughts chronicled here