My daily commute takes me through Pioneer Courthouse Square (in Portland, Oregon). During both the weekday morning and evening commutes, unless there’s a specific event or protest going on, there usually aren’t too many people just hanging out. A few tourists, perhaps a few people taking a break in their evening, but mostly those hours see the bustle of commuters on their way home from work.
Last week, though, I encountered something completely different. One day, in particular, there was a pretty decent sized crowd of people sitting on the steps. There were even people gathered around the small ampitheater off to the side. Most were looking at, and swiping at, their phones. Many of them were playing Pokémon Go.
With three PokéStops (with Lures active on them most of the time), and a Gym, it’s a good place to set up camp. And, from the way the colors of the Gym were changing quickly, it was clear some teams had come together to try taking control. I saw people smiling, laughing, occasionally cheering, and staring at their phones in intense concentration. Mostly they were in clusters of two or three, but sometimes those groups were larger and a few seemed to merge into much larger groups as people realized they were sitting alongside teammates.
The game has its faults, certainly, but there are also a lot of great things about it, and I’m really enjoying watching the social aspect. It’s been an awesome tool to get people to come together in a social manner. A number of restaurants and businesses are starting to offer perks to Pokémon Trainers as a way to encourage them to come and stay a while (and, of course, spend some money). Even the National Park Service is getting in on the game!
The game actively encourages the players to go out and move, to wander around in search of elusive Pokémon and then come to certain, central, places to interact with other people who are in that same location. While the concept is certainly not new it has become so fiercely popular that the groups gathering are more noticeable. In the short time that the game has been out it’s already made a difference – a visible difference – in the way that people are acting in and interacting with their world.
I’ve seen families out on Pokémon gathering walks. I’ve overheard conversations about the game occurring between people who would not normally be interacting with one another.
At my local parks I’ve seen more people of all ages out and about in the beautiful weather than I’m used to seeing. I’ve joined a local Pokémon Go group on Facebook and a variety of events have already been organized. It’s amazing the places that this game has been making an active difference.
I know that I’m not the only one making these observations, there are so many anecdotal accounts, people sharing their stories and the ways that they’ve already been seeing community growing and coming together because of the game.
I love hearing these stories. It’s awesome to see technology serving to help people get out and build bridges between each other — especially in this time when there are so many divides being built between us.
Do you play? Have you experienced the game bringing people together at all?