What does it take to get 500 Floridians to brave the outdoor heat on a July Sunday?
Pokemon Go, evidently.
SPEW Podcast held a Pokemon Go Picnic at Centennial Park on July 17th, 2016 and drew a massive crowd. The Facebook page showed over 1,500 were interested in the free event which was open to Pokemon trainers and the public. Families, young adults, and the elderly all gathered to play the wildly popular augmented reality phone-based game that has been dominating the news trends for the past two weeks. Despite many of the news stories focusing on the rare negative consequences associated with the new game, this event proved that the game has the power to bring communities together in a safe, friendly, and positive environment. SPEW gave out free water and others handed out free cookies, stickers, charms, and refreshments all for the sake of enjoying the game together.
Other news stories featured the planned picnic and highlighted how the game has fostered opportunities for people to socialize, help their communities, boost local businesses, and get a bit of exercise. On my podcast, we talk more about the game and why it is making such a splash even amongst people who are not Pokemon fans or hardcore gamers. On any given night, you can walk around downtown Fort Myers, Florida and see people of all ages, from all walks of life playing the game, usually with a group of friends. The same is true for cities across the country and the effect this game is having on fostering relationships and breaking down social barriers is unmatched by any of its predecessors.
People approach me in public to talk to me about Pokemon Go. Instead of feeling creeped out or bothered by a stranger talking me, I feel that rush we all got in school when the new kid sat down and you noticed the Goosebumps book sticking out of her backpack. Yes! We have something in common! Let’s be friends! Or at least, lets chat about our catches and go about out day. It’s a welcome refrain from the usual “please don’t bother me” security blanket I wear in public.
Whether the game designers knew they’d be creating just a neat game or something much deeper is unknown. Regardless, Pokemon Go is doing something no other video game has done before: it’s bringing us out of our shells and providing a catalyst for meaningful interaction.