Pokémon GO: Deeper Lessons in Community

by Aaron Leatherbarrow

If you haven’t read the first article I wrote about finding community in an unexpected place, or if you would like to read where Pokémon came from and why I care, you might start there.

“Dad! maybe if I run into that tall grass over there, I can make the scyther come out!” says my daughter Elise.

It’s about 11 a.m. at Davis Park in Sapulpa. I’m walking around with my daughters Lilly and Elise.

She runs over into the tall grass and I watched my smartphone because a scyther was, indeed, nearby.

Confused yet? That’s ok. I am here to help.

Pokémon GO is a free-to-play augmented reality mobile game. It was released July 6 after massive anticipation. The game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual Pokémon who appear throughout the real world.

So what does this mean? It means you’ll be seeing people from all shapes and sizes surrounding places like parks, churches, and other points of interest. These places are marked on one’s smartphone as PokéStops. At these stops, you gain the equipment needed to capture Pokémon that will appear in these areas.

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Now, Davis Park is about four blocks from my house. It’s amazing that I can walk there with my girls, and on that walk we can hunt for Pokémon. The second time I went I met someone who was letting her very socially awkward son have a chance to play a game out in the sun. I met a group of four folks in their mid-20s who were just getting started in the game. I was able to talk to them and invite them to our Pokémon League that my daughters and I attend every Sunday. In that hour or so, I met 20 different people.

I was at my Pokémon League and my friend Andrew came and alerted me to the fact that there was an official meet up for the Red Team at 9:00 pm that night at Guthrie Green. I was there! But before the evening meet up came, I put my 3-year-old in her stroller, and she and I walked all over Sapulpa. She attracted even more Pokémon GO players, and I got to meet about 20–30 people. I told some of the people that they should get to know other team members and meet to discuss strategy. Community was exploding and I hadn’t even gotten to the meet up that night. At 9 that night, I met eight more people that had already been to dinner together. These folks hadn’t ever met before and were meeting for the first time because of this game.

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That night I was with people that came to play a game with other people. They knew each other within hours. We were laughing, hugging, and buying Gatorades for some electrolytes. We were offering charging cables for our devices that were dying due to the massive amount of use and I learned so many people’s names, saw people that were not used to being social, and so many people that would never normally be together. Yet there we were, we were together and It was beautiful. It was the living organism of community, and it was natural.

I think there was a movie playing at the Guthrie Green that night. I want to say it was E.T. But honestly, I and so many of the people weren’t interested in that. We were searching, and laughing, and enjoying each other. I think it’s safe to estimate that there were about 250–300 people there that night, and I met at least a third of them. I came home so full of acceptance and so happy to see such a beautiful thing. I also came home four levels higher and 160 Pokémon richer! Team Valor (the Red Team) took a couple of PokéGyms and we had an amazing time together.

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What does this mean for us and the city of Tulsa?

It means that there are people getting together all over our city. People from all over our city are wandering in our parks, our neighborhoods, and our city sidewalks, which gives us some choices:

First of all for the Pokémon players:

  1. BE SAFE! Dont hunt in your car, It’s silly and it defeats the purpose of the game. Just don’t, It’s something Team Rocket would do.
  2. Get to know each other! Get on Facebook and find out if any of your teams are meeting up.
  3. Try the Card Game. Pokémon is a huge world of fun, and you might find a lot of the spirit of the game in collecting the trading cards.

Second, for all the people that see us players wandering around:

  1. Don’t be scared of us. Let your neighborhood watch programs know what we’re doing. We are not out there to rob you and are not taking pictures of your home. We are looking for that Dratini that might be lurking by your mailbox.
  2. Ask us what we are doing, kindly. Start a conversation and listen. We want to talk about the Bulbasaur we just found and we would be elated that there are non-players that are kind.
  3. Offer us a drink or something. I know it’s a step further, but man it gets hot out there. Some of us are not used to this kind of exercise.

Pokémon GO gives us a chance to get together as a city. It is already doing it better than any other app on the market or any other “program” I’ve ever seen. It puts us together naturally and gives us a game rather than an agenda. I hope that you will see its beauty and once again be encouraged to get out there and Catch ‘em All!

Aaron Leatherbarrow is a Pokémon Professor, a Head Judge, a Gym Leader at his local Pokémon league and has spent the last 17 years of his life trying to teach community to kids. Aaron also produces the 918podcast and will admit to liking the Starship Enterprise even more than Ash Ketchum.

5 Comments on Pokémon GO: Deeper Lessons in Community

  1. Linda Hrncir // July 13, 2016 at 12:04 pm // Reply

    My “kids” say it brings to life the things they loved in their childhood. They’re absolutely giddy with excitement. (We’re talking 20somethings.) “You drive mom, so I can catch Pokemon.” We need to visit the ATT store cause someone’s phone won’t work the AP and then spend an hour swapping stories with the rep. about meet-ups and choice spots to get the best “catches.” You know, you can get a Pikachu at Walgreens on the corner of 15th and Lewis. Our conversations about important life decisions are cut short with them all running out the door.. “gotta go mom, we gotta catch ’em all” giggle giggle. They’re walking and running around the neighborhood, something they never do, visiting parks, campuses, museums, oh, wait, “I gotta go to the library mom, I’m gonna join a gym.” “A what?” “A gym.” Ohhh, it’s a Pokemon thing. “You guys know this is not real, right?” “Not real, of course it’s real!” Okkkaaay, this is a little out of hand. Then my 12 year old complains about her legs hurting cause she was walking around Riverside park with her older sister for hours looking for Pokemon and I’m like…. hmmmm. Btw, I think we have Valor people in the house.

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  2. Hey this is Austin one of the people that you met at the park playing this game last night and I remembered you saying something about this blog so I decided to check it out and I think this is really cool what you are doing

    Like

  3. Great to meet you man! Hit me up on twitter @sigmabreaker2

    Like

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