by Julie S
You may have heard your kids clamoring to play it, or you may have a mom in your mom’s group who has confessed to hunting Pikachu while at the nearby park during a playdate.
If you’re curious what the Pokemon Go hype is about, or if you have an inkling to play with or without your kids, here’s a few quick things you should know so that you can make an informed decision.
FIRST, WHAT IS A POKEMON, AND WHAT IS THIS GAME?
Pokemon are cute little creatures that are popping up all over Kalamazoo (and all over the world), thanks to a new game called Pokemon Go. Through GPS, it makes it look like the Pokemon are right in front of you on the sidewalk, in your backyard, or on the splash pad. If you throw a ball at these creatures, and you have skill and luck, you may capture it and then can have them fight each other at gyms. Or you can just take ridiculously cute and funny pictures with them and not worry about the gyms, if you are so inclined.
So, here are the pros and cons:
PRO: YOU GET A TON OF EXERCISE
Gone are the days of sitting on the couch. In order to play this game, you need to get moving. The more you walk, the more Pokemon you encounter. The game also keeps track of how far you’ve walked, and walking is what hatches eggs that you find, which also have Pokemon. Think of it as a geeky FitBit. You can’t cheat the egg hatching, car rides don’t work. This game wants you to work for it, and there are complaints all over the internet of people having sore legs. What a great complaint to have in the era of couch potatoes!
PRO: YOU MEET NEW PEOPLE
My girls and I have already met new people, both neighbors our age, and parents and kids playing together in parks we have been exploring. We swapped tips and found out what they had been catching in the area. As my children are still young, it was also good practice to learn how to say hello and speak politely to strangers, and my daughters thought it was great that we had something in common with so many people.
PRO: YOU EXPLORE NEW PLACES
We regularly get out and go to parks and take long walks around the neighborhood, but this game adds extra incentive. The old Pokemon adage is “gotta catch em all”, and visiting new places in and around Kalamazoo is the best way to do it. There are different Pokemon found in different places and at different times around Kalamazoo, such as different ones by the water versus in a city. The Pokemon even vary from park to park, and you never know where those rare Pokemon will turn up.
Places like the Air Zoo, Kalamazoo Growlers and Portage Library have already touted their Pokemon heavy locations (Portage Library, for example, has eight within easy walking/biking distance). Looking for PokeStops has already led me to some places in my own neighborhood I didn’t know about, such as a little lending library around the corner from my house.
The best PokeStops are found in gathering locations like parks, walking trails, downtown, and historical landmarks. Although, be sure to ensure that your child understands that certain locations should be respected and perhaps not hunted in, such as in cemeteries.
CON: SAFETY CONCERNS
This game can be a lot of fun if you use common sense. Sadly, there have already been a lot of reports about the opposite. Many Pokemon appear at intersections and can be reached from the sidewalk, but kids may not know this. Some PokeStops can be in shady locations, and it’s hard for a kid to resist heading into that parking lot for that special Pokemon with their head down in their phone. Some criminals have been using lures (ways to bring more Pokemon to PokeStops) in order to lure people there and then steal their cell phones.
This is a good time to talk about safety with your kids, about who to talk to, about where they can safely go. It’s a good time to set ground rules. It’s also a great time to say, hey, let’s play together instead and to take those walks with your kids, and to get to know your child’s friends a little better so they can go hunting in groups.
CON: SECURITY AND ELECTRONIC DEVICE CONCERNS
This app eats a lot of data. Expect to have the phone running out of battery life on a regular basis unless you are charging it often. There have also been reports of it requesting too many permissions, and it has been fixed in the update that was recently released. Also, if you are an Android user, be aware that there was a malware version of the app, so make sure to download the correct one.
SO WE’D LIKE TO PLAY, WHAT NOW?
Download the app on your phone, give your trainer a name, catch your first Pokemon and off you go!
Great places around Kalamazoo and Portage to go, especially with kids are:
- Bronson Park in downtown Kalamazoo
- The Air Zoo
- Portage Public Library or Central Park (behind the police station)
- Celery Flats Trail
- Haverhill Park & Elementary
- Western Michigan University’s Campus