Pokemon GO gets us outside, but then what?

Is there something wrong with this picture? (Screenshot of Pokemon GO video)
Is there something wrong with this picture? (Screenshot of Pokemon GO video)

I’m trying hard not to be an old fuddy-duddy, so please help me out. I want to hear from you about Pokemon GO (and other technology that gets people outdoors, but mostly PG). It’s only been around since Thursday, but the sensation seems to be sweeping the nation (or the world?), perhaps at a time when we could all use some positive distraction. It is summer, after all… And Pokemon GO does get people outside… kind of. Check out the official video:

I gotta admit, I was kind of appalled when I watched it. The players are outside, even in nature, but they’re glued to their phones. They smile at each other in passing, but they’re still on their own. But I’m sort of old-school when it comes to nature. I think that to best experience nature’s restorative benefits, you can’t be hooked up to technology. You have to unplug to recharge. There is some research that affirms this, but right now we’re talking about Pokemon.

My friend and I were sitting outside a café on a lovely morning last weekend when we spotted a young couple walking down the sidewalk, each staring at their individual phones. Then we saw another couple doing it and tried hard not to resort to the usual tut-tutting that we thought was reserved for our grandparents: “Kids these days, no one talks to each other, they’re all obsessed with their own devices,” etc. Then yesterday a Twitter friend said she’d gone down the Pokemon GO rabbithole and I looked it up and – bingo! Those kids were playing the game! So, they were outside (good!), they were sort of interacting with each other (good…), playing a game sort of with each other (good…)… but glued to a tiny screen, immersed in a fake reality, chasing a cartoon character, not interacting with anyone around them—not even the other couple that was doing the same thing. Hmmmmm…..

I try to be open to–and even embrace–new technology. I love apps that help me identify trees and butterflies, or that help me not get lost when I’m on a hike, or that connect me with other nature- and garden-lovers. I’m very excited about this invention that provides positive distraction to children before they go into surgery. I’m pretty sure that gazing at a nature view would not immerse these kids enough at that stressful moment.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 3.25.15 PM

I heard this piece on Morning Edition (“Pokemon Go: The Live Video Game Everyone Seems To Be Playing“) and this snippet brought up some interesting points:

Laura SYDELL: The western edge of Golden Gate Park is amazingly beautiful. There’s a view of the Pacific Ocean, a historic beach LA restaurant with a view of the water. Today, there are dozens of people that are in the restaurant parking lot. And they could [sic] care less about the ocean. They’re looking down at their smartphones. Danielle Sheridon says she’s searching for fictional monsters called Pokemon.

Dean Speer, 28-year-old personal trainer says Pokemon Go takes you places. You can’t play it sitting down. And the search reveals more of the world, like the entrance to a trail you’ve never noticed.

SPEER: I had walked by the entrance many times, never really realized it was an entrance. But then you’re like, wait, that’s a trail. And then you walk back there and suddenly there’s creeks and trees. And I’m like, oh, there’s more of this than just Golden Gate Park.

But, “judge not lest ye be judged,” or at least “see for yourself,” so today I reluctantly downloaded the app. And – surprise! – the site is so busy that I haven’t been able to try the game yet. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, what do you think? Is Pokemon GO fantastic, good, bad, evil…inevitable…all of the above? Leave a comment here, or join our conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. We’ve been getting some great comments, click on “comments” below to read up.

Screen shot from the video. Is he sort of looking at the fountain…?