When I was a kid, I would often stare out the car window as houses and trees and buildings whose purpose I didn’t know whizzed by. I would make up a little game in my head, placing some of my favorite Pokémon in the foliage or peeking out a window or bouncing around someone’s front yard.
I was fully obsessed with Pokémon. I loved them. I desperately wished they were real. When my parents would tell me to make a wish as I blew out birthday candles, I would wish that Pokémon were real.
I’m not kidding. I really did that. Every year until I was a teenager.
So when Pokémon Go came out about two months ago, it was practically a dream come true. The Pokémon I imagined hopping around my yard as a kid were now bustling about my apartment complex’s parking lot and I was free to go catch them. I could finally have my own Pokémon adventure.
And what an adventure it is!
Living in the city — Columbus, Ohio to be exact — fills every day with an opportunity for more Pokémon catching and exploring. Even just sitting in my apartment will often yield a couple Pokémon a day, but actually walking around and exploring the city increases the opportunities for interesting experiences tenfold.
Pokémon Go is not just about catching Pokémon, it’s also a social experiment, which is where the unique experiences people have often comes from. During one of my first excursions after the game came out I was tracking a Rhyhorn with some difficulty. After a few minutes I came across three tween-age boys riding bikes, stopping every few seconds to look at their phones. When we reached each other one of the boys saw me looking at my phone and said, “Are you looking for the Rhyhorn? It’s back there, just hang a left!” And then they rode away.
This experience in particular got me thinking about the social nature of this new game. There I was, a 22-year-old college graduate, being given advice from a twelve-year-old on a bike. Sure enough, the Rhyhorn was about a block down and to the left.
Having Pokémon Go in the city has made for easily the most unique gaming experience I’ve ever had. It ranges from finding a Magikarp in your toilet to taking over a Gym with a stranger you never even say a word to, just look up at each other in a sort of silent alliance, to finding an enormous horde of Drowzees in a science museum.
If someone had come up to my eight-year-old self in 2002 and told me what I’d be doing with my free time in fourteen years, I would’ve told them to stop playing with my heart. I never could have dreamed that anything like this would ever be a reality. Even if Pokémon Go is still a little rough around the edges with a lot of room for improvement, it doesn’t change that this game is a literal dream come true for people like me.
I always imagine what my childhood would’ve been like if I’d had Pokémon Go as a kid. Maybe my parents would have switched from, “Stop playing Pokémon and go outside!” to “Stop playing Pokémon and come inside!”
Many people have complained that Pokémon Go only gets people outside at the expense of them staring at their phones. But, in my eyes, if a game can get a bunch of shy, nerdy little kids (like myself) to not only go outside but make friends with people they’ve never met, how bad can it really be?
Joel Wallick is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a degree in Film Studies and a minor in creative writing. He has been gaming since early childhood, beginning with Pokemon Silver. Follow him on Twitter @SuperNerdJoel.