My neighborhood is rather old, at least by Miami’s standards. My own house existed in the 20’s, something uncommon in the area, and there’s older pieces of building scattered around, stone arches and gateways that are rather beautiful remnants of a century past. For most of my life, though, I was completely unaware of the history that surrounded me in these buildings every time I biked to work or ran through the neighborhood. That is, until they became Pokemon gyms.
Like a whole host of people, I downloaded the new mobile sensation, Pokemon Go, within just two days to its release and started playing. As I wandered through the game's virtual landscape, it wasn’t long before I encountered the Pokemon, Pokestops, and gyms sharing space with my hometown's buildings, fountains and arches. The massive water tower near my house is a Pokestop. The building where I’m working this summer is a Pokemon gym. All around me there are hundreds of places that have suddenly taken on new, Pokemon-infused meaning.
This new meaning actually stays with me when I leave the game as well. By drawing my attention to the world around me, Pokemon Go has made me notice that world so much more than I used to. I pay more attention to landmarks or interesting features of my home, and actually recognize how gorgeous my neighborhood is. It’s not quite right to say that I just do so because I want to catch ‘em all, either. Even when the game isn’t on my mind or my phone isn’t on my person, I find myself taking note more often than I used to of what’s around me. Pokemon Go has, if only in a small way, changed how I interact with the world around me.
At the end of the day, the game probably won’t mean very much. Most people will play Pokemon Go for a few days or weeks, then abandon it for something else. The most dedicated players will linger on as the world they play in slowly becomes less and less populated with other people. But for a few weeks, it will have made our world a slightly more magical place, one where the grass can hide fantastical creatures and epic duels for the fate of your region are decided at the corner store. And, if we’re lucky, we might just realize as we leave the game that the world around us is still awe-inspiring, that it never needed Pokemon Go’s help to be magical.
With excitement and optimism,