Today is a little different. I am not going to give you tips or tricks. I’m not going to tell you how to ‘win.’ Instead, I want to share my experiences today with Pokemon GO. There’s something really special about this game, and that special thing is that EVERYONE is playing it. In a world, and especially here in the U.S. right now, that is constantly divided, it seems that for the moment, many people have found a common ground. That common ground is the desire to catch, train and battle Pokemon.
It began as I got off work. Upon meeting my partner Carl, we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood in order to try and see what Pokemon we could find. We saw that one of the “lures” had been set at a nearby Pokeshop so we decided to swing by. As we approached, we saw a group of young men sitting on the stoop of a building, all looking at their phones. We nosily looked over to see them playing the game. We said hello and continued down the street. Moments later, a large group of NYU students passed by, all playing as well and we shared a moment as we all realized that we were there for the same reason. In a matter of seconds, we had met ten people that were playing the same game that we were.
In New York City, if you’ve never been, the general rule of thumb is to keep your head down and keep to yourself. It’s rare that conversations start out of the blue with people passing by. Yet, here we were, discussing Pokemon and a phone game with complete strangers and it was as if we were instant friends. Rather than finding what we hated about each other, a trend that seems to be all too easy in this world of racism, classism, sexism and other forms of hate, we bonded over the need to catch digital animals. There’s something sort of magical about that, right?
As we continued down the street, we ran into several more people who were playing. Not physically ran into, but passed by. As we did, these people acknowledged us and we acknowledged them. At Thompson Square park, we encountered a gym where we fought for supremacy, took over the gym, were defeated and went on to fight again. While we never saw our competitor, we knew that they were somewhere very nearby, fighting just as desperate a fight as we were.
As the night continued and we got back to Astoria, our neck of the woods, we passed a man playing and discussed which team he would be on once he could choose one. We talked about the teams in the area and how he was trying to level up. Again, bonding with a total stranger. In our final moments before heading in, we passed another large group and heard a girl exclaim “I think it’s a Pidgey!” We waved hello and told her we hoped she caught it.
Here’s what’s astounding to me. All the people we saw playing this game, and there were more than those mentioned here, all of them were of different races, sexes and backgrounds. We didn’t see other races or ages or histories with these people though. We saw fellow trainers on a quest to catch them all. It’s amazing that a game like this can bring us closer to those around us. I can honestly say I interacted with more total strangers today than I think I ever have before in New York City. On a day when it was easy to walk outside and feel so divided with the world, I felt even more connected to it. And while this game requires you to put your face in your phone, my best memories of it were when I looked up to yet another friendly face that was smiling because they knew that I was going after the same Squirtle they were.
I read an interesting tweet today that really made me think about this game in a new light. “Pokemon GO may be a mess of Server Issues, but when it works, IT WORKS.” So true. Beyond a phone screen. Beyond digital rats or bats or bulls. Beyond red teams, blue teams and yellow teams. Pokemon GO is a game about togetherness, unity and a common goal that we can all share. I literally can’t wait for my next adventure in this game.