Pokémon Go — Americans Are Walking Again Because of a Video Game

Hundreds of reporters — and all of your Facebook friends — are talking about Pokémon Go, the “augmented reality” game that lures people to go outside and explore in search of virtual critters.

Pokémon Go in New York City (left) versus an exurb (right). Images via Stop and Move
Pokémon Go in New York City (left) versus an exurb (right). Images via Stop and Move

A zillion takes have been published about the game in the week since it was released, including some disturbing accounts of how people mix Pokémon Go and driving. But the game trades on walkability, writes James Sinclair at Network blog Stop and Move — it’s just not much fun in any other setting (sorry, no Pokémon glossary provided):

You don’t need a Manhattan-style grid to enjoy Pokemon, but you do need density if you want to have any fun.

Sure, you can drive to a Pokestop, but the game encourages physically walking via the eggs, which require distance logged to hatch. Oh, and apparently that distance counter stops if you go above 10mph, so don’t even bother cheating.

Additionally, in a dense area, a 15 minute walk can have you pass by 10 different stops, 3 gyms, and 7 Pokemon encounters. In a suburb, your drive might yield one. Not so fun.

Pokemon Go is motivating millions of people to lace up their shoes and hit the streets in pursuit of Pokemon, Stops, and Gyms. I wonder how many people will be motivated into thinking about living somewhere a little more dense?

People aren’t going to base major life choices on a video game, of course, but Sinclair sees the potential for subtle long-term influences:

Maybe there’s a 16 year old out there who will be more inclined to pick an urban college to enroll in next year, thanks to their disappointment in their suburban location. Maybe there’s a 22 year old who will take a job in an urban core in in five months because she feels she’s been missing out. Will either cite Pokemon in their decision? No, but like all media influences, it might be there in the back of the mind, a seed which has been slowly growing: If you’re missing out on Pokemon, what else have you been missing?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Architect This City relays the news that Ontario’s five-year plan calls for eliminating parking minimums. And Better Bike Share explains how Helsinki’s effort to link bike-share and transit has paid off.

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