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8 Unexpected Benefits from Playing Pokemon Go

At first glance, Pokemon Go seems like an overblown nostalgia-grab, but it's so much bigger than that.

I grew up playing Pokemon. I had the cards, the Gameboy games, and the toys. I watched the movies and the show. I spent years imagining that I was a Pokemon trainer, running through the tall grass and stumbling upon a sleeping Vulpix. As an adult, I even talked about Pokemon on a friend's pop culture podcast.

So, it is no surprise that I jumped at the chance to play Pokemon Go after it burst onto the scene this summer. I expected to engage in a healthy dose of nostalgia, play for a few weeks, and get bored. I thought it would be fun, I never guessed that it would be beneficial.

Besides being a childhood dream come true, here are some of the ways Pokemon Go changed my summer for the better.

1. I immediately became more active.
While most games can be played sitting still, PoGo cannot. Gameplay completely relies on users getting out of their house. So, out of my house I got. In the first week of playing PoGo, I went for a walk every evening. I rode my bike three days in a row. I stopped at three new coffee shops and visited five parks. I was also chased by two angry black swans and sat in goose poop at least once, but—hey—I was outside.

2. I explored new parts of my city.
As long as you're moving, you can play anywhere. (Okay. Almost anywhere. Seriously, stop playing at the Holocaust Museum.) But Pokestops and gyms are concentrated around cultural spaces: gardens, parks, museums, zoos, downtown areas, etc. Since starting Pokemon Go, I've visited two museums and three parks that I never would've made time for in the past. Plus, I went with friends who—you guessed it—also play the game.

3. I've become a park person.
Most weekends, I'm happy to spend my Saturdays on the couch rewatching Gilmore Girls. But lately I've been posting up in the park instead. It turns out that Pokemon Go was the push I needed to get outside during the day. Maybe it shouldn't have taken an app. But some days it's hard to walk out your front door, and it's a little more fun knowing I might find a weird, little crab out there.

4. I learned about some art.
Besides the aforementioned cultural spaces, Pokestops also appear near local artwork, most commonly sculptures, murals, and installations. The game incentivizes stopping to admire art and even includes a small bite of info about the piece.

5. I feel healthier.
Going for daily walks may not be enough to counteract my admittedly terrible eating habits, but it's something. You'd be surprised how much a little fresh air can do to improve a person's outlook on life. Plus, some PoGo users are genuinely benefiting from using the app. Partner apps like PokeFit help players keep track of their health stats: calories burned, distance walked, etc.

6. I have met and chatted with Poke-strangers.
I've never been the type to strike up a casual conversation with nearby coffee shop patrons, but Pokemon Go somehow changed that. Just last week, I had a lengthy conversation with a fellow-trainer who told me to—quote—"Catch 'em all, girl."

7. I could meet someone special?
While I doubt I will be finding the Ash Ketchum to my Misty any time soon, some PoGo users are certainly trying. Soon after PoGo was launched, PokeMatch hit the scene. And, yes, it's Tinder for Pokemon Trainers.

8. I can participate in local Poke-pub-crawls.
Arguably, the best part about playing Pokemon as an adult is that you get to do it and drink adult beverages. So, why wouldn't there be PoGo pub crawls? Most major cities have communities of avid players that organize events for users of all ages including tours, park meet-ups, and more. If you're serious about making friends through the app, these are the way to go.

I know a lot has been said about Pokemon Go already; some of it's dismissive and some of it's delightful and some of it is extremely overblown. I also know that, for many of you, it's not your thing. But the app is pretty cool.

It encourages exploration and friendly competition and looking a little longer and harder at your city, even if it just means walking out your front door. It awakened a community of dormant Pokemon players to be vocally excited about something that's been special to them for a long time. It encouraged gamers of all ages to literally come out of the shadows.

I'm sure I'll inevitably get tired of it—eventually, catching Pidgey after Pidgey will get redundant—but for now, I'm going to enjoy my quiet evening walks and Saturdays in the park.

Rachel Weeks

I'm originally from the Chicagoland area, but I recently moved from beautiful Des Moines, IA to the equally beautiful Denver, CO. I spend my days reading, binge-watching TV shows, performing and listening to comedy and, of course, writing.

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