Unless you are living under a rock you’ve heard of, seen someone play, or are playing Pokémon Go yourself. If you have an Android or iPhone – go ahead and download the game and check it out. Even if you don’t like (or understand) Pokémon you will enjoy the concept behind the game and you might even learn something about your own backyard by mistake.

To be completely fair I am not a Pokémon fan. I never played the card game or any of the other video games and really don’t understand the current game play as well as I would like. Why am I playing? This is the first large-scale test of an Augmented Reality game that has caught the public’s attention. (Yes – I know Ingress was out before and is the same basic concept but I don’t think it did what Pokémon Go has as far as recognition and number of players.)

So what do you do? The premise is simple. To get started you simply look for and catch Pokémon in the real world. You’ll find them walking around mostly outside. Yes – this video game requires you to leave the comfort of your couch although you can play in your house or office if you want your results will be greatly diminished. Here are a few Pokémon I was able to catch around the office –

I caught one – now what? Really good question. You can find PokéStops that will give you items or when you reach level 5 pick a team and visit a gym where you can do battle. It gets a little complicated from here and honestly beyond what I came to the game for. I have tried to play around but I have neither the time or the desire to get in too deep. The good news? I don’t have to. The game is just as much fun exploring and finding Pokémon as it is figuring out what else to do with them.

PokéStops One of the most interesting features of the game is the locations where you can get bonus items. Most are local landmarks and while some are relatively insignificant (the ribbon wall at Ridgewood Shopping Center) some are very unique and places I might not have found otherwise. Hidden on the Wake Tech Public Safety Education Campus is a Hall of Remembrance honoring those who gave all in public service through Law Enforcement, Fire and Rescue, and Corrections. After a meeting in the building I saw the PokéStop on the map and asked the security guard if I could walk back to it. He walked back with me and commented that no one had asked about it until the game. There is nothing listed about it online so without the game I would have been within 20 ft and never seen the place.

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Another memorable PokéStop was the grave site of Theophilus Hunter Sr. on Dix Campus. It is a gym where you can battle your Pokémon but you can’t lose sight of the significance of this being the oldest marked grave in Wake County dating back to 1798. I may have found this site in my adventures on Dix Campus anyway but the gym highlighting it made it easy to find.

graveThese are two sites that appealed to me out of many that have popped up and made me say – I didn’t know that was there. 

What about all the bad stuff? If you get enough people interacting there is going to be bad stuff. So far we’ve heard rumors of the app stealing your personal data (no more than any other app on your phone), people getting hurt and robbed, and stories of trespassing and wondering into restricted areas. I think it is important to understand that if it wasn’t a good idea in the first place it isn’t when you are playing a game and playing a game doesn’t give you a special license to break rules. Places still close when they did a week ago – stay out of the park after dark, etc. And if you want to go and see something be polite and ask. You shouldn’t trespass for a video game any more than you should on any other day.

Will I win the game? No – I’m not even sure if I am playing it the right way. But I am winning. I am getting outside, learning more about my community and believe it or not talking to people in a public park. And more importantly so are many other people. I think whether or not you are a Pokémon fan you could enjoy this game and benefit from playing it.

Bottom line? It is worth trying. You may like it you may not. If you do and Pokémon isn’t your thing? Try Ingress or wait – there are already rumors of a Game of Thrones game and I am sure Star Wars and many other franchises will follow. Before long we may all be out wandering but not lost looking for something in our own backyards and joining teams with real people. Wonder if at some point in the future parents will start making kids stay inside and play video games as punishment?

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