I’m sorry, but Pokemon Go is my game

At least this writer admits to having an unpopular opinion about Pokemon Go.

To my fellow millennials, and adults of all ages: Just let kids play. Considering it’s their game, let them have it for a little while, OK?

Wrong. I’m almost 60. I’m at risk for heart disease. My father died of heart disease when he was a little older than I am now. I have been told by my doctor to get an hour or two of light exercise every day, and for the past couple of years I’ve been walking a few miles every day, around my rather unexciting little town.

That opinion is exactly backwards. It’s like Pokemon Go was designed for us old people. You young’uns get out of my game and go play racketball or rugby or run marathons, or any of those other games that would kill me if I tried them.

Nah, not really. There’s room for everyone and no need to be exclusive in any way. This weekend we were in St Cloud to take my oldest son out for a birthday lunch (happy birthday, Alaric!) and we went for a stroll around Lake George. There were swarms of people out walking with their phones. I saw a couple of Hispanic families talking excitedly about the game (I assume!) in Spanish; I saw a woman in a hijab stabbing at her phone happily; I saw lots of kids and college students and even crotchety old people like me enjoying the weather and checking their phones as they were out for a promenade.

So yeah, please stop trying to claim for yourself what everyone has good reason to enjoy.


  1. says

    I can’t wait to see what the 2nd generation of these AR games are going to look like!

    You gotta know that every game designer out there is thinking “how can I cash in on this?” now that it’s more or less too late. But the deluge is going to have some nuggets of gold in it.

  2. says

    I agree. I’m totally aware that Pokemon Go is just the gateway drug to the coming hard stuff. Who knows? Maybe the next AR game will have me running marathons.

    And then I die, wheezing and gasping, while clutching my phone.

  3. says

    Yes! Please go out and play! More people using public facilities like parks and trails means those things become more “important” to the local government, and get more money for upkeep!

    (…but please make sure to walk on the side of the trail or sidewalk, and step off if you’re going to stop entirely, or at least make sure you’re out of the way. As a non-Pokémon-Go-player who rides a bicycle, I can’t think of anyone more annoying to encounter on the trails than someone who is blocking the way and totally engrossed in their cell phone to the point where they ignore bike bells and requests to step aside.)

  4. says

    Maybe the next AR game will have me running marathons

    I was talking to a guy the other day who’s coding an AR game where you collaboratively collect blocks, carry them to a location, and “assemble” them, so that you’ve got walls, castles, sculptures, and anyone who’s in the game will see them rendered over the scene.

    That would have me scampering back and forth holding imaginary blocks all day!

  5. says

    And then I die, wheezing and gasping, while clutching my phone

    As long as your battery isn’t dead from all the AR, you’ll be able to call 911!

  6. johnharshman says

    I do roughly the same thing as Pokemon Go, except with real organisms. I find that more interesting.

  7. Vivec says

    I mean, I think there is something to the OP’s argument, though I disagree with the ultimate conclusion.

    I’m just young enough to grow up with some new media fandoms that were exceptionally hostile to children in the fandom, despite the work in question being specifically targeted to children.

    I think it’s important that members of a periphery demographic remember that they’re indeed in the periphery and don’t make the fandom hostile for the intended audience, especially when that audience is children (insert video of adult fan complaining about a MLP coloring book being too childish here).

  8. says

    From what I’m hearing, the problem isn’t going to be so much adults-versus-children but rather obsessive-players-versus-casual-players. The standard to beat a gym in a reasonably popular area, I am told, has already become unrealistically high, and if you’re just playing for an hour or less every day, you won’t be able to train enough to win — there are college students and unemployed people who can play 8+ hours a day.

    This could be fixed by just having multiple tiers at gyms — based on some combination of total hours played and average hours in the previous week or two — but I’m sure we’d still see the increasingly familiar phenomenon of some 18-to-35-year-old white male (it’s not always an 18-to-35-year-old white male, but it’s nearly always at least 2 of those three) complaining that their ownership of the local gym was cheapened because they only had the top tier. It wouldn’t be enough for them unless the happy little 6-year-old who took the beginner level was reduced to tears by not being able to beat the upper-tier-holder’s level ten-million Mister Fish.

  9. =8)-DX says

    @johnharshman #9
    You put them in small containers and then make them fight each other? Monster! (OK, OK, I get it.)

  10. brucegee1962 says

    Did you hear about the two Canadian kids who got caught crossing the border illegally in quest for Pokemon?

    Those Canadians are coming down here to try to steal our Pokemon!!! Who will protect us? Finally, a use for Donald Trump’s wall!

  11. Rich Woods says

    Walking home this evening I noticed that there was a far greater number of people than usual in the park I crossed. I’ll put that down to it being a nice day and the schools breaking up last week. The proportion of people of all ages wandering around on their own staring at the phone in their hand, though, was way above normal.

    I couldn’t help but think that it’s too much like a Doctor Who plot: a game company enables augmented reality psychic vampires to batten onto humans and slowly take over the world. That suspicion started this morning, when in at a work meeting one person proclaimed he’d captured a pokemon while we were waiting for everyone to turn up, and then pointed his phone at a nearby desk before announcing he’d got another. Maybe I’d just had a narrow escape…

  12. says

    I can’t do the same thing with real organisms, since “real organisms” means to me tiny little things that require me to sit at a microscope and stare while making minute movements with my fingers.

  13. Akira MacKenzie says

    I admit, Pokemon Go isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but Give me Orcs or acid-blooded Xenomorphs to hunt down and fight, and this fat-assed, 42-year-old, man-child will gladly waddle out of his Dad’s basement!

  14. johnharshman says

    #15 PZ:

    Ha! Those are model organisms. And everyone knows that models aren’t real.

  15. lepidoptera says

    The cooperative aspects of Pokemon Go are especially appealing to me. When I am out and about playing Pokemon Go I notice how the game brings together people from different demographics (age, ability, race, gender) who might otherwise not interact. There are lots of smiles, even some laughter, and sharing of information of the locations of pokestops and where particular types of pokemon can be found.

    Kudos to the creators of Pokemon Go!

  16. Nightjar says

    Well, I don’t know. I’m technically a “millennial” and I did catch myself the other day starting a conversation with two kids playing Pokemon Go on the street along the lines of “You know, kids, back in my day…”. And then proceeded to tell them that I also used to collect Pokemons but in the form of actual, palpable cards and some really cute and fluffy stuffed toys!

    In a way I feel like this is my game too, since I remember being obsessed with Pokemon as a kid back in the nineties. Except now I don’t have time to play it :(

  17. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Sigh, I tried Pokemon Go quite a bit now, but it’s just sooo boring. Nothing happens for me. However, I’m still happy I tried it, because it led me to its predecessor, Ingress, which I find to be much more awesome. I’ve been playing that for over a week now and it’s already starting to change my daily activities, simply because when I get off from work, instead of taking the bus home, I spend time capturing portals or doing missions now. I think this is the type of thing I need. :-)

  18. says

    You gotta know that every game designer out there is thinking “how can I cash in on this?” …

    Not just game designers. Marketing and advertising folk, too. You’ve seen that “Hyper-Reality” video, right? I know for a fact, having spoken with an executive of a major IT marketing infrastructure corporation, that they’re asking the same question.

  19. cartomancer says

    I’m not sure that something which encourages people to go outside more is going to be a good idea in Minnesota six months from now…

  20. says

    The first several days (or maybe even week) after Pokemon GO released I didn’t actually leave my house, because that’s not a thing I ever do. Instead I found like 15 different Pokemon just hanging around at my computer.
    Then I ran out of Poke Balls. Whoops.
    Of course my tablet doesn’t have a gyroscope for some reason so I can’t actually utilize the AR portion of the application…

  21. says

    Eh. Some of us in Minnesota are sufficiently acclimated that we’ll walk a kilometer to get to the coffee shop in a blizzard. I suspect winter won’t slow me down much at all.

  22. anbheal says

    “The field. Put the disk in the cone.”

    “Have you tried this?”

    “Yes I have.”

  23. says

    Speaking as someone recovering from open heart surgery, this game is seriously part of my cardio rehab; a painful walk – and it *is* painful to walk right now! – is so much easier when you have a distraction and a goal beyond “walk a kilometer”. I managed one and a half (slow) kilometers yesterday creeping my way from Pokestop to Pokestop and gym to gym when without the game I would have been barely able to tolerate a quarter of that just because in its current state my cardiovascular system doesn’t clear lactic acid from my muscles as efficiently as it should, and after two months flat on my back my muscles have shrunk and stiffened to begin with.

    So don’t be telling me this is a kid’s game – it is part of this middle-aged person’s medical program.

    All that said, I notice PZ has avoided the really important question here: Instinct, Mystic, or Valor?

  24. says

    It was my game too… until that damn Fearow dodged twice, broke out of four pokeballs and the damn game crashed when I threw my last pokeball. That was two days ago and I haven’t played it since.

  25. says

    “Instead I found like 15 different Pokemon just hanging around at my computer.”

    I found four Evees at my computer desk. I found the Fearow there as well. … Damn that Fearow!

  26. Moggie says

    Marcus Ranum:

    I was talking to a guy the other day who’s coding an AR game where you collaboratively collect blocks, carry them to a location, and “assemble” them, so that you’ve got walls, castles, sculptures, and anyone who’s in the game will see them rendered over the scene.

    Christ. The company which successfully marries Minecraft-style building with AR will have all the money.

  27. jeffj says

    We must have had something in our back yard last week. A number of players started up our driveway, and at least one took a quick peek around for witnesses before sneaking into the back yard. I don’t mind a bit and I would invite them to help themselves to anything they can catch if I didn’t think it would embarrass them.

    But you must admit that, like a lot of things, a few overzealous participants can ruin it for others. People are going to wind up in places they shouldn’t. I’m not at all pleased in the uptick in drivers in our neighbourhood watching their screens rather than the road.

  28. carlie says

    I cannot play it myself – I have two mobile devices, one old and one new, and neither are compatible with the game requirements. It is difficult for my kids to play, as they have no data plan so if they log in at home and then get logged out while outside, they’re out for good until they hit free wifi again (or home). However, spouse does have data, so we’ve already had a couple of family outings where they all tether to his phone, I drive to the locations they tell me, and everyone has a great time. :) I’ve also learned about locations in my area. I now know something about several murals I had never really paid attention to before.

    I’ve also seen a huge uptick at state/national landmarks. We have one near us that almost never has anyone visiting, but there were a lot of people there on the weekend because it’s a pokestop. And the national landmark near us that does get decent traffic had HUGE traffic compared to normal because it’s large enough to have 3 pokestops of its own and a few more within two blocks. Just far enough that doing a full round of them took long enough for the first to reactivate so you could do a whole round again. :D The park itself was really into it – they had poster paper out where you could list the pokemon you caught, and sidewalk chalk so people could mark the spots and generally doodle on the paths about loving pokemon.

    I’ve seen people having chats who would never say a word to each other normally in public. It’s great. I know there are some huge downsides to it right now, but there are some great benefits as well.

  29. carlie says

    (clarification: pokestops have info about the location, so when you get to the thing it tells you what the mural is about or what the historical landmark is for etc.)

  30. says

    Pokemon Go is horrible and you should be ashamed of playing.

    Also, I can’t install it on my phone.

    Re: money making
    1. There’s your data. Data is money.
    2. There are apparently already ideas to allow business owners to buy a Pokemon location as a means to get you into their business.

  31. KG says


    You know you’re old when something comes back into fashion, and you saw it as just for the kids the first time round!

  32. zibble says

    Frankly tho, the writer’s premise is exactly wrong. This game was designed with nostalgic adults in mind. Aside from the fact that mobile games are more of an adult market than handhelds, and that adults are more able to freely travel to pokestops, the pokemon available are only the ones *we* grew up with, when the first game came out. They could have just as easily made the available Pokemon the ones from the latest generation, which young kids would be the most familiar with. Hell, even your ingame avatar reveals the target age – in every main Pokemon game, your character is like 12 to 14, in pokemon go, they’re clearly 20-something.

  33. john cryan says

    I’ll listen to critics of Pokémon Go when they start directing the same level of criticism at Fantasy Sports Leagues–at least Pokémon Go gets you up off the couch and away from ESPN for a brisk walk.

  34. ck, the Irate Lump says

    The worst part of that article is that it speaks with such authority and gets fundamental things wrong about the game itself. It seems to have been written to reassure those who already hate and fear the game that their hate and fear is somehow justified. There’s plenty to criticise about those playing the game (like players wandering into and loitering in hospitals, police stations and other areas they shouldn’t be going while playing), but the author apparently isn’t satisfied with that, and tries for things more spectacular.

  35. says

    Honestly, as far as I can tell, Pokémon Go is made for people who don’t play games. It’s shallow, empty and wildly popular. Certainly games and gaming are going to be redefined even further as they become a significant part of the wider culture. There will be screams and crying from the manbaby gamer community, but ultimately more people playing games can only be a good thing.

    Come talk to me when you’re ready for Hearts of Iron.

  36. rorschach says

    I’m at risk for heart disease.

    You have 5 stents. You have heart disease.

  37. InitHello says

    And if you’re driving around to gyms and stuff, remember to put the transmission in P for Pokemon before interacting with the game.