In defense of Pikachu

Rachel WoodRachel Wood


Column by Rachel Wood, contributing writer

Never in my lifetime did I expect to see 20-somethings getting excited over Bulbasaurs.

It would be an understatement to say Pokémon Go has become fairly popular, with millions of users downloading the virtual reality (VR)  app since its release in early July. I was excited to see how the app would affect a college campus like Murray State during the academic year.

I’m shocked at the number of conversations I’ve had in the past two weeks that began with, “Did you know there’s a Pokémon nearby?” I’m also disappointed with how quickly I’ve taken out my phone to confirm this bit of information. It’s no doubt our campus already has a very active Pokémon-hunting community.

Online users have wasted no time reaching for their torches and pitchforks, though – many ridicule the game’s players and complain it only encourages people to look at their phones.

At first, I thought these complaints were the result of a generational gap. After all, millennials are always glued to their smart devices in the eyes of some baby boomers; did they really expect these millennials not to lose their minds over a game whose prime objective is to walk around with a smartphone in hand?

Then, my dad called to inform me that he had caught a Weedle while sitting at his desk in his office.

Granted, my dad is a technology specialist so it’s not all that surprising that he’s interested in the newest smartphone craze. He’s not the only one, though – several of my friends have also informed me that their parents have tried to figure out the app as well. So, the whole “hey kids, get off my lawn,” anti-millennial argument doesn’t really hold up.

Maybe it does just come down to popularity, then. The whole concept of a VR app is nothing new – Ingress, another of Niantic’s apps, has been around since 2013 – but there’s something about Pokémon Go’s popularity that has really gotten under some people’s skin.

I get it – everyone has something they love to hate: Justin Bieber, Nickelback, people who don’t use their turn signal. Perhaps, because this is a new craze, it only feels to users like the internet is bursting with hate for it.

But let’s think about the positives: people are getting outside, being more active and interacting with people on the street. Isn’t that exactly what some people have been demanding of avid internet users for years? The presence of smartphones doesn’t invalidate the act, either—there’s no “wrong way” to enjoy going outside.

Most importantly, though, Pokémon Go users are having fun – that’s all there is to this. Even if you don’t see the fun in going outside to catch virtual monsters, there are people who do. This app has given people a reason to get outside for a few minutes every day for a change of scenery. Life can be really mundane sometimes, and Pokémon Go makes it a little more interesting.

Can we all take a deep breath and see the fun in this game?

I’m not trying to force everyone to succumb to the Pokémon Go craze; I get that not everyone grew up playing the games or watching the TV show. But the next time you see two people getting excited over a Pikachu, just leave them be.