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Yes, I'm playing Pokémon GO... - Elf M. Sternberg
Yes, I'm playing Pokémon GO...
Out of curiousity I installed Pokémon GO on my phone a couple of days ago and... it's addictive. I'm already a walker who enjoys wandering around my city for my lunch break and taking different routes to get from the office to the light rail station, so having another reason to look around and register the landmarks, learn about ones I haven't seen before, and learn their names was particularly compelling.

The light rail passes over two dozen pokestops (a landmark that you can visit, learn about, and often get Pokémon GO tools from) between the sports arenas and the airport. Just attentively ticking each one as you pass is a great way to restore all your pokeballs (the primary tool of the game) after dealing with yet another effin' Zubat (that's a kind of Pokemon).

Vox tried to explain why Pokémon GO was "destined to go viral," but its explanation— that the thirtysomethings playing it now were ten-year-olds when it came out and so are going through a nostalgia kick enhanced by alternate reality— doesn't really work for me. I already

was thirty when Pokemon first came out. So why do I like it? It can't be just the grand tour; I could have downloaded any app at all for that.

I like it because I like talking to people, but I'm bad at it. Tragically so. I never know what to say. Like most people, I have a limited amount of time to cultivate hobbies and culture, but my culture and those of most people don't overlap— I don't watch much TV and when I do it's not Game of Thrones, my music tastes are weird, and I don't watch sports. My own interests are either deeply geeky or distinctly uncomfortable topics for small talk.

You can tell a Pokémon GO player from the way they hold their phone while walking and looking around. There's a combination of situational awareness and attitudinal intensity that's different from someone reading messages or even navigating with a map app. Best of all, they often want acknowledgement; talk to a Pokémon GO player and they'll tell you all about the best catch they've had that day, or where the richest pokestop of the morning was.

Pokémon GO gives people an excuse to interact with each other, to get out of our shells and see each other for a moment. It's surprisingly humanizing in that way. It gives you a rich context for conversation that's not just about the banality of the weather or the

touchiness of local politics, while at the same time constraining that conversation so that embarrassing other details can be put off. It's just silly enough to get you over the hump of introduction, and having adults acknowledging each other's ridiculousness, the ways we manage our stressful lives by being ridiculous, is empowering all on its own. It gives me a rare chance to do something I enjoy while constraining the risks of doing so to the point where any anxiety I have is manageable.

I'm not sure if I'll stick with it. I've stuck with Neko Atsume for a couple of months, although now I'm down to that one last cat, so I'm almost to the end, and maybe Pokémon GO will be my new "casual" game for a while.

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