What I Learned About Pokémon Go On Vacation With My Kids

Pokémon Go has been the subject of a lot of conversation over the last few weeks. College students and little kids have been telling me during clinic appointments about how they go out and play with friends or parents. Opinions about the game are all over my news feed, where the game is blamed for people walking into to traffic and for disrespect of sacred landmarks like The Vietnam Memorial and even Auschwitz. 

Pokémon isn’t new to my clan. Classifying those little critters has been an engrossing pastime for my 3 kids for a stretch. The Pokémon phase seemed to have wound down, until Pokémon Go hit the streets. So, having heard and read about the craze for these weeks, I wondered what Pokémon Going would be like.

Here’s what I learned:

People in the park on a sunny day. Staring at their phones.  

People in the park on a sunny day. Staring at their phones.  

Notice how many apparent go-ers here. It's almost everyone in the shot. 

Notice how many apparent go-ers here. It's almost everyone in the shot. 

The Good:

Bringing folks out into the sunshine
We saw lot of folks out exploring various cities who looked like they didn’t get out much. People who looked pale and inclined to stay indoors. Pokémon Go brought them out. In fact, most of the tourists we saw out and about were playing. Two thirds I would estimate. 

Talking to strangers
Pokémon Go players struck up conversations with each other, with my kids. “Hey, what team are you on?” and kept it friendly. They pointed us to stops where we could catch ‘em all the more. They approached each other, bonded momentarily, and moved on. Sitting in a restaurant at lunchtime, my 12 year old heard a familiar chime from the booth behind him, and turned to investigate which creature the table of thirty-somethings behind us had captured. "A Squirtle! You better catch it quick!" 

The Pokémon Go players ranged in age from little kids (maybe 6 or 7) to middle aged adults and everyone in between. No elders were spotted playing Pokemon Go, but I couldn't rule it out. And players were culturally and ethnically diverse. One tattooed fella with dreadlocks and a skateboard in hand struck up a conversation, then a young middle eastern couple with a baby, and next an African American man. 

Good for tourism
These unwitting explorers visited landmarks they would not have otherwise seen. They stopped and listened to street musicians, and the grabbed lunch in restaurants. 

Pokemon Go sure brought the crowds to this park! 

Pokemon Go sure brought the crowds to this park! 

The Bad:

Walking out in traffic
Boy, I can see how someone would walk out into the street playing on their phone without realizing. We yelled "Stop!" On more than one occasion at our kid for almost stepping into traffic. My advice: go out in pairs; one to watch the game on the phone, and one to lookout for safety sake. For the littler ones, maybe consider keeping a hand on them at all times, lest they wander quickly. 

Talking to strangers
Going out in such a open, collaborative, welcoming state of mind is fun. But the bad guys notice when distracted innocent folks gather and chat with strangers. Another reason to go out in pairs, just in case someone is hoping to snag a purse form a distracted (or gullible) Pokémon Go player. 

Respecting the landmarks
While most of the Go players out there seemed mindful of the sacredness of the spaces they visited, some were so wrapped up in the game, that they forgot their manners. My advice: stop an enjoy the attractions, and then resume your game. And drop a dollar in the bucket for the street performer. 

Overall, we found Pokemon Go to be a good family & community bonding experience. I recommend it! Share your opinions in comments. 

Posted on July 25, 2016 .