The launch of Pokémon Go has become an instant worldwide phenomenon amongst college students who had grown up watching the popular TV show. This free-to-play app uses GPS navigation to locate the virtual monsters and the camera on your phone to display them right in front of you. Despite its popularity, reviews on the app have been mixed.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, there is a large cluster of college-aged students staring blankly at their phones as they walk up and down the street searching for Pokémon. One student calls out “Can you guys please stop playing Pokémon Go? We are running late!” The zombie-esque students look up from their phones briefly to let her pass through, and then resume their hunt to catch ‘em all.
In the crowd is Chicago Columbia College student Álvaro Ayo who said it was his first time using the app.
“Well I never played Pokémon when I was little, so I didn’t really understand what was making it so unprecedentedly popular. But since I’m going into game development, I thought I should get it and try to figure it out,” Ayo said.
“I’ve never seen a game/app before with that real world exploration angle. It’s making people go places they don’t usually go and like, walk around. It has this weird social element that I think might also be a part of the reason so many people are into it.”
Many college students have benefited from using this app by both making friends and going outdoors.
College student Chad Fisher said, “I’ve walked 47 kilometers in about a week, saved money by playing Pokémon instead of going out to bars or movies and I’ve met a bunch of people I probably would not have met otherwise.”
There is no denying that this app is great for getting a gamer out into the sun and meeting new people. Doctors have been praising the app for its mental and physical health benefits. However, in many areas the popularity of the game has become a nuisance. Players walking into traffic and using the app while driving have been reported. Officials have urged people to stay alert when playing the game to deter further causalities.
University of Tennessee student Casey Fellhoelter said, “This app allows people who typically never leave his or her dorms to get into the sunlight only to walk around aimlessly like zombies, tripping over stuff and getting hit by cars.”
When Fellhoelter was asked if he played Pokémon Go, he admitted he played it earlier this morning.
For some it is not just the appeal of getting out of the house that persuades him or her to play. Creighton University student Chad Neiri said, “Pokémon was a childhood gem and playing it in the outdoor world brings both fun and nostalgia.”
Pokémon dates back to the ‘90s, where it began as a pair of video games for the original Game Boy. The franchise now spans video games, trading card games, animated television shows and movies, comic books, and toys. Pokémon is the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world, behind only Nintendo’s Mario franchise.
The college-aged students, who walk around searching for Pokémon today, once played the game at its earliest stage on their Gameboys, watching the TV show, and playing the trading card game. This game brings a much-needed wave of nostalgia to people plagued by student debt, heavy workloads and the impending doom of the crashing job-market.
Whether viewed as a curse or a blessing, Pokémon Go is here to stay, with new app updates being released within the next month. College students everywhere: rejoice! The ‘90s are alive and well. There’s a new Pokémon around the corner; perhaps even a new friend.