If you’ve been paying even slight attention to major media outlets in the past week, you’ve heard of and about Pokémon Go; an Iphone/Android application that uses GPS technology to let users catch Pokémon in the real world. At first, many just walked around and caught whatever they saw, plain and simple. However, with the inclusion of Pokéstops (set locations that give players items upon visiting) and gyms (locations where the game’s three factions battle their pokémon for control), Pokémon Go has proven to be quite the social application as well.
Typically, popular applications suck people out of the real world, eschewing real-life communication for wireless messaging. Pokémon Go has no such feature. Rather, people are actually talking to each other in person when playing. It’s not uncommon to have someone run up to you and ask if you’ve seen a Squirtle near by, nor are general show-off sessions between trainers. In reality, it’s kind of mystifying; people coming together and interacting over shared memories of youth. However, not everyone sees it this way, I am here to talk about these outliers.
As of late, there has been a surge of blog posts and small-time articles talking about how playing Pokémon Go is not an invitation for interaction. The rhetoric on both sides can be rather heated, but on a basic level, one side says that they shouldn’t assume others want to interact or should be interacted with while the other argues that the application is meant to be social.
On one hand, it can be easy to understand why some wouldn’t want to talk to others; they might have social issues or are simply not feeling like talking to others at the time. Not everyone wants to talk all day, and that should be respected. What’s more, people are cautious, as they should be; some people have already been robbed in Missouri after being lured to pokéstops. In general, the world is a wild place, and you never know if someone is okay to talk to both out of danger and simply how they’re feeling at the time.
On the other, Pokémon Go is indeed a social app; it brings people out of their houses and into the world to catch fantasy creatures in the wild. This gives people something to talk about, and that should be applauded. If you want to approach someone but have nothing to talk about, it’s easy to just go up to them if they’ve seen a specific pokémon in the area, or if they’ve made an attempt at the nearest gym. Humans are innately social creatures, and that makes giving people such common ground something truly beautiful. Even then, Pokémon Go means more than some might think at the surface level. People around my age (20-30) grew up with Pokémon. It hit us so hard in our youths that one of the most commonly held fantasies was to live in the Pokémon world and live as a trainer, and now we actually have that opportunity. Therein, what fun is it to be a trainer if there is no competition, rivalry, or interaction? Without other people to interact, bond, and train with; nothing really separates Pokémon Go from any of the other games, making it a massive waste of potential.
So who’s right? Well, I’m only one man, but I really do think the pro-social camp is in the right on this one. Sure, sometimes you don’t want to talk to anyone, and there are people out there who don’t want us to have nice things. However, people are being brought together in a way some may have thought inconceivable, and that should be cherished. Are you in the right to not want to interact with others? Sure, social interaction is your choice; just be sure to be civil about it.
Nobody’s breaking down your door demanding a conversation; people are social and common ground might make them want to talk. With that said, going out in the open and playing Pokémon Go is pretty much an invitation to interaction; if you don’t want to deal with people, this simply isn’t the app you’re looking for. However, an interaction can easily end by informing the other party that you don’t feel like talking, just don’t act like they had no right to approach you in the first place.
But what about you? Do you agree and think that both sides can be civil about this? Or am I romanticizing the dreams of my childhood with the opportunities Pokémon Go has opened?