Pokemon Go in Calgary

You can tell who’s playing because they have a cord hanging out of their pocket,” the ice cream vendor serendipitously located next to a Pokestop explained to the lady wondering why gangs of people in their teens and twenties were crowding Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park on a random Tuesday night in the summer. The cord is for the battery charger you need to carry if you’re going to play this game*. Pokemon Go is a battery sucker, but everyone is playing it.

Yes, everyone. Teens, twenty somethings, and a dads in his 40s with their kids. Charlie and I were playing too last night and it was great. Playing Pokemon Go with your kids is a great way to get out, try new things, and spend some quality family time – looking at a screen.

There has been some hate thrown the way of Pokemon Go players, as is usually the case when something a younger generation loves explodes in popularity very quickly (see every boy band ever), and it’s unfortunate. This Vancouver letter, in particular, seems to be getting a lot of attention:

Hate Pokemon Viral Letter

Sure, it’s written with a little tongue in cheek, but at the same time .. lay off the gas, buddy. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean you need to piss on the parade of others who are celebrating it. Pokemon Go is a legitimate cultural movement this summer, the perfect blend of cutting edge technology (augmented reality) mixed with nostalgia to instantly grab the imagination of the targeted tech savvy audience.

“There’s an Aerodactyl here,” the millennial yelled to his friends as he pushed his glasses up his nose. He barely looked up from his phone when he called to them again. His friends came over, but so did a dozen or so other people nearby.

Including Charlie and I.

After two throws, my son caught the monster and we walked over to the bridge where a lure had been set up and we heard people were catching Dragonair. Again, dozens of people crowded around the bridge with their faces in their phones plugged in to white cords hooked to backup batteries in their pockets.

Laughter, jeering, and concentration surrounded us as people tried to catch the monster or bragged about the levels they had already achieved. Charlie, a half pint in the crowd, focused on his task and after half a dozen captures and escapes, caught his prize.

POkemon Go Charlie

“Yay!” I screamed when he finally leashed his prize. Normally this kind of outburst would be odd and uncomfortable, but like at a sports game where everyone cheers a big play, the people around me knew what had happened and congratulated my son on his achievement.

It’s weird, everyone is “in their phone” and yet engaged and together at the same time. Pockets of conversation are all similar. It’s a shared experience. It’s not people unplugged and in different worlds in their phone, they’re in the same world.

For an hour, Charlie and I wandered the park stopping at Pokestops, tossing balls at virtual monsters, people watching, smiling, and enjoying being out in a crowd of like minded people having a laugh at a new, wondrous shared experience.

And some people are starting to get it. The backlash to the backlash is brewing, as this letter encouraging people to play shows.

pokemon go letter

Hey, easy on the ‘angry dads’ blast, I’m here and playing and loving it!

When my boys were younger, we would get up early on spring weekends and spend a few hours fishing. We’d sit quietly, talk about random things, breathe the fresh air, and just enjoy spending time together. It was great, until we finally started catching fish and my sons realized that fishing meant killing animals.

We haven’t fished in 2 years.

To get my boys to hike more often, I’d entice them with geocaches. The real world treasures would take us off the beaten path and off to explore places we’d never been to before.

Pokemon Go is like fishing and like geocaching. A hunt is involved, no animals get hurt, there’s a little bit of competitive spirit, it’s techy and speaks their language. For years they’ve collected the cards, the game is their hobby come to life.

So, on a random Tuedsay night in the summer, I took my youngest son off for a ‘date night.’ We walked, we talked, we had father-son time, we had ice cream, we walked for 3 and a half kilometres chasing cartoon monsters.

Prince's Island Park

Spend a few minutes to figure out how to play Pokemon Go, it’s free and really not that hard, and take your kids out in the summer sunshine to find a new ice cream shop, find a new park, see new people, and share a laugh discovering something new.

* To celebrate #PokémonGo in Canada, TELUS is offering trainers free in-store charging stations. Bring in your Pokédex today.

Disclosure: I’m a member of Team TELUS.

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