I started writing this at 1:40am on Friday night in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY. My brother and I were just pulled up on by State Troopers in a church parking lot for being there late. We stopped by this parking lot on our way home. This was no ordinary parking lot though. This parking lot contained a Pokemon gym. The officer came up to us and asked for identification. We gave him our driver's license and he ask what are you doing here this late. I replied: "Officer, do you know what Augmented Reality is?". He gave me a strange look and said "nope". Fast forward a few minutes later to after my brief lesson on Augmented Reality and the new game Pokemon Go, he told us to have a nice night and left.
Prior to this encounter with the law enforcement my brother and I were outside a local Chili's restaurant, another Pokemon Go gym, when three cars pulled up simultaneously. One guy got out and screamed, there is a Squirtle around here. While he began searching for the elusive rare Pokemon by walking around the parking lot, the others who were still in their cars, began attacking the "Big Red Chili Pepper" gym. Within two minutes the gym changed from Yellow to Red (two of the teams you can join in the game) as it was overtaken by a new champion. Five minutes later, they left. If your not on the move in Pokemon Go then your not really playing Pokemon Go.
Even earlier in the evening, down the street, a different car pulled into the United States Post Office to capture another Pokemon gym. They saw our phones out, we saw their phones out and so said we said Hello to each other. It turns out that they were actually some old friends of my brothers through a friend of a friend. They exchanged numbers and agreed to re-connect again soon. Pokemon Go re-connected old friends on a sidewalk outside a United States Post Office.
Now since Friday at 1:40am when I was explaining to a State Trooper what Augmented Reality is, I know similar stories have been told thousands of times as similar situations unfolded across the world. I am sure you have heard by now that Pokemon Go is a new augmented reality app that makes you and your phone (using it's built in GPS) the main character as you walk around the real world to find and capture Pokemon. It is not the first augmented reality game but it is certainly now the most popular.
It's truly amazing just how fast this game has gone viral considering not once inside the game is there a prompt to invite a friend or get some free game items for sharing. The virality of Pokemon Go has been almost all organically social and word of mouth.
Since the mid 2000's a new world of tablets, iPhones, improved gaming systems, and more have slowly been keeping us in our routines. I love that this game get's people back outside, connecting with others on the street, and exploring the parts of the world their normal daily routines ignore. Yes, Pokemon Go could improve the whole head down toward the ground like zombies staring at our phone thing, but we will get there soon enough with improved technology. I'm looking at you Oculus, Samsung Gear VR, and Microsoft HoloLens.
I wanted to share this story and experience as it felt truly unique to me. That night in the suburbs, people were out and about exploring the world instead of sitting inside somewhere. There was an energy in the air that night in the suburbs. An energy that you can easily take for granted living in a big city that never sleeps like New York. It was refreshing, light hearted, and fun. So before others try to ruin the fun, get out there and catch some Pokemon. If you can, catch them all, and while your at it remember to pick your head up from time to time to say Hi the other people around you.