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Pokemon Go: How Viral App Is Benefiting Lives

INSCMagazine: Get Social!

The following sentence has been written in some basic form or another at least 100,000 times. “Pokemon Go is creating a surge of exercise.”

Yes, yes. Millions of people globally are now walking mile after mile in order to find different Pokemon, hatch eggs, and become Pokemon masters. The presentment of a challenge is incentive enough to overwhelm the average person’s apathy toward the exercise.

However, this article is not about the burning of calories, but the building of something greater. This is about how Pokemon Go is doing something that has been needed to be done since the onset of worldwide video gaming. It is taking the shadows away from the gamers who hide from the light, but need it the most.

In the ideal scenario, a gamer is a well-adjusted child/adolescent/adult who goes to school/work during the day, unloads in a video game at night, and balances a social and family life in between. Ideally.

In this less than ideal world, a significant percentage (perhaps even a majority) of gamers are not well adjusted.

They suffer from any number of items located on the autism spectrum or a various combination of mood, social, and/or hormonal disorders that affect their ability to be that well-adjusted kind of person.

These are the people most likely to become addicts of gaming to where they completely stunt their growth in social skills.

Many of these disorders can only be treated to a certain degree with medication and cognitive therapy is a slow trek that is more arduous than any physical activity. As a result, many people in these groups become naturally wary of social situations and often withdraw.

Whether other members of society reject and spurn them as outcasts or they ostracize themselves because they aren’t in the mood to socialize etc., the end result is typically the same. They are in their room on an electronic device or reading a fantasy book/comic while not being social.

Oh sure they may speak to their parents and one or two friends; maybe even several, but they aren’t as outgoing as they could be. They require multiple hours of “alone time” to deal with their day while they are trying to beat the latest boss of the latest release.

Video gaming is a more severe attraction to these groups because they find a level of safety in gaming that envelopes them like a comfortable blanket as they sit in front of a television, phone or computer and push buttons. Video gaming is a way they can be “social” but withdrawn behind a screen where they don’t have to face the uncomfortable task of being face-to-face in a world they don’t socially understand.

In this world, they can play a game where the rules are clearly outlined for them to follow. This is a warm alternative to society’s almost never-ending rules of proprietary that can be something significant like not asking someone about certain aspects of their personal life to something trivial like not wearing white after Labor Day.

It isn’t just video games, but card games like Magic, strategy based games like Dungeons and Dragons or even comic books and anime.

Realms that they can escape to when they are fed up with reality. This is all natural, but what’s happened is too many of them are using these worlds as crutches to lean on and ignoring their growths as people. Because for all the social media platforms in the world, none of them can substitute for face to face human contact where there is no barrier that separates healthy relationships from being formed.

The creators at Apple understand that they have been a part of this problem too. An iPhone with a Facebook app is just another barrier to keep people apart as much as it can be a tool to connect with someone beyond reach.

Apple and Niatus, the Pokemon company, decided to correct this and deserve every bit of praise for it. They took the idea of a game’s goal, asked themselves how do they get it to where a person has to go beyond the walls of their room and home in order to accomplish the goal.

From there, they concocted the hypothesis of making a game that would have to be explored by movement and coordination of a GPS signal. Combine that with the idea of using Google Maps and they have the how. Insert the objective of “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” and the why explains itself.

Pokemon Go does all this and more as it gets the gamers to leave their respective Fortress of Solitude that they built for themselves.

Not only does it force them to exercise, but they have to actually move from where they are positioned in order to explore this “new world” which is known as the planet earth.

The greatest achievement, however, is that Pokemon Go can be called a therapeutic technique because it bypasses one of the hardest challenges for gamers and people of these socially deficient groups. Instead of being forced to use the confusing and unpredictable concept of “small talk” which is reduced to atomic levels in these groups, Pokemon Go gives them a subject about which they are passionate and have an outlined universe to use as a blueprint in conversation.

When one gamer sees another person staring at their phone at a local Pokestop, it’s easy for either one to ask, “Hey, what have you caught today?” and a conversation is born. They are now talking and exercising their underused social skills and like a muscle, they get stronger the more they do it.  Pokemon Go goes beyond social media, goes beyond gaming, it creates an environment that is purely social while the game is the subject and the forum board/chatroom is not an option. It has taken away the barriers and given the outside world back its nerds.

What Pokemon Go also reflects is how far gamer and nerd culture has come. In the previous decade, members of this culture were bullied to extreme levels for playing a Pokemon game. Or Yu-Gi-Oh (or in my school in Texas it was “You-Gay-Ho”). Or Magic. Or (insert your own nerdy thing). The 2010s have put a gigantic halt to the time of ostracizing that only fueled the gamer’s original impulse to hide in the shadows where they wouldn’t be bullied. Now, there are anti-bullying groups and organizations like the WWE that are “shaming” bullies.

Now, the previous generation, my generation, is grown up and we don’t care anymore because we’re not in high school. We can be whoever we want and that includes being able to say we like Pokemon and we also embrace this game with nostalgia. The newer generation can’t condemn it anymore because it is now a part of our culture versus a nerdy game. It is no longer stupid to be a nerd, but hip.

Pokemon Go has the potential to be only a phase, but I suspect Apple has multiple plans to make it a regular thing and get people to change for the better in health and social outgoingness. But for the present, it must be celebrated for all the progress it’s made in less than two weeks.

Apple has done something that nerds, gamers, loners, anyone who has spent hours in their rooms playing games versus being out in the social outdoors needs more than anything else.

Its given them back the light.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com