Rediscovering Chicago with Pokémon GO

"I did it! I went outside and got him." I had a few glasses of wine last night, and while my husband was Skyping with his brother, wandered outside to catch a Tauros. This is Pokémon GO. It's a nationwide craze, a total addiction, and honestly, the first thing that has made me happy in weeks.

You've probably heard of Pokémon GO by now. You may even be playing. It's an augmented reality phone app that uses GPS technology to drive players outside. Each trainer visits cultural points of interest in their real-life neighborhood to gather items. Then, they try to capture Pokémon that appear in the environment around them. People on 3 teams battle each other for control of gyms. My workplace is a gym, and believe me, that caused QUITE a stir yesterday!

Pokémon GO hits all of my buttons- collecting, completionism, competition, and burning calories. This simple game has brought me SO much joy. It has taken me to places in my neighborhood I never would have explored otherwise.

Ooo, look at all those Pokéstops up Lincoln Ave.! Better put my walking shoes on.

Ooo, look at all those Pokéstops up Lincoln Ave.! Better put my walking shoes on.

As a proud extrovert, my favorite part of the app is the socialization. Literally every time I go out hunting or training, I meet someone playing Pokemon GO. I have been down in the dumps lately for many reasons- my parents moved away, I'm in a new home, I leave for Japan Friday and my passport is LOST IN THE MAIL AAAAAH! ...Pokémon GO gets me out of the house and making friends. Here are a few of my anecdotes:

  • My favorite gym is called Johnny Casserole. Interestingly, the restaurant "Johnny Casserole" no longer exists. So, whenever I go to fight for it, I get to see people congregating around an abandoned storefront.
  • Aaron Amendola, local host of The Geek Show, recently hosted a housewarming. I met multiple new friends at this party just because we were all catching Pokémon.
  • On the bus home from said party, some strangers were playing Pokémon GO. Their friend had just reached level 5, and they were trying to convince him to join a specific team. I told them I was level 12 (I'm now 15.) They called me "Misty" and "Ash Ketchum," and we talked Pokémon until their stop.
  • Waiting for the bus one day, I met a girl named Krystina. She was hunting Pokémon, of course. Krystina had been given an incorrect drink at Starbucks in addition to her own. She gave it to me for free, and we caught Pokémon together for a few minutes. I saw her 2 other times the same day, and now we are Facebook friends.
  • I was trying to claim Half Acre Beer Company for Team Instinct. (MY LIFE FOR INSTINCT. WE ARE THE STORM.) On the way, I met a girl from Team Mystic. She told me, "I normally disagree with people burying themselves in their phones, but this game really encourages talking to strangers." This girl even had the same Zelda phone charm as me. ...This did not stop me from running ahead of her to claim Half Acre before she could. Sorry, lady. You should not have stopped for that Zubat.
  • Finally, two nights ago, I was searching for that elusive Tauros. It was after 10 p.m. I found the creature, but even after I used a Razz Berry AND a Great Ball, he ran away. I headed for home. Coming down the block in the opposite direction was a young boy in a Pikachu hat with his dad. I said, "I bet I know what you two are looking for!" The father affirmed that they'd come outside for Tauros. I smiled my biggest smile. "He's just ahead," I said. "He ran away from me, but with a Pikachu hat like that, you seem really special. I bet you can get him." I made that family's night as well as my own.

Thanks to Pokémon GO, I've noticed the ornate, vintage spire on the roof of a building I pass every day. I found a new Little Free Library location. I now understand the meaning of the mural in my local CTA stop. Even though Pokémon GO is a game in a fictional universe, it has driven me to appreciate my REAL universe.

I've definitely gone over my phone's data limit for this month. It's OK, I'll pay for it. I'm seeing my favorite city in a new light. I'm meeting people, getting exercise, and feeling truly happy thanks to a phone app. This joy is the very promise of technology- glowing screens encouraging us to work our bodies and connect with others.

So go out there, Chicago. Download the free app and catch 'em all. Chicago's art, people, and Pokémon are waiting for you!

The Squad

The Squad

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