Pokémon Mania | Planet Ryan - Republic-Times | News

Pokémon Mania | Planet Ryan

By on August 3, 2016 at 8:15 am

Not more than a day or two after Niantic – the relatively unknown mobile game developer – launched what would instantly become the worldwide sensation known as Pokémon Go, I decided to download it like all the other cool kids.

I was somewhat familiar with the world of Pokémon, but only sparingly since its popularity peaked while I was in high school and I obviously had way cooler things to do at that age than play card games based on strangely-named Japanese creatures.

But when Pokémon Go was released, the idea I liked most is that it was the first mainstream “augmented reality” mobile app. In case you’re not familiar, the simple explanation is that the relatively new technology overlays a digital world over your real world using your mobile device’s camera.

There’s a slight chance I’ve written about augmented reality in a previous column. But I digress. The bottom line is that my inner geek begged me to download the game. So I did.

Like tens of millions of others around the world, I fully admit I’ve enjoyed the game from the get-go. Even though developers had a hard time keeping the game playable due to unprecedented demand, firing up the game and capturing new Pokémon in this strange, new augmented reality world was certainly something different.

Within a few days of the game’s launch, the mainstream media dug in and did their very best to promote the dark side of the game. There were a couple of robberies. Another person or two walked off a ledge while playing the game. Someone even discovered a dead body while playing.

These are tragedies, no doubt. But what they didn’t report was the fact that millions of kids, teens and adults were leaving their homes for the first time in years to get out and hunt Pokémon in the sunshine. The game encourages walking and exploring to accomplish various goals.

There are also countless stories of families bonding – some for the first time in years – by going on family Pokémon hunts around their neighborhoods, national parks and undiscovered landmarks in their hometowns.

Small business owners, especially those who own bars and restaurants close to “Pokestops,” the digital equivalent of a Pokémon pit-stop, are seeing noticeable increases in business. It’s really quite something.

Monroe County even had some Pokémon Go controversy centered around the rules of being on courthouse property after dark. I personally think Sheriff Neal Rohlfing handled it perfectly – even with a touch of humor.

This game has generated headlines unlike any other in history. It’s easier to focus on the negatives, which are few and far between compared to the positives, because they’re shocking and great for grabbing attention. But that’s how the news business – which I work in — makes money. Nothing new there.

I would just encourage people who spend time generating negative comments about the game to recognize that the good far outweighs the bad and it would only take one a few minutes of research online to confirm that.

The tech geek side of me can assure you augmented reality will be standard in our way of life in the very near future, whether you like it or not. Savvy small business owners are already taking advantage of it and they’ll be the first to be generously rewarded when it finally becomes mainstream.

Times are changing, folks.

Ryan Ledendecker

Ryan is a biweekly columnist for the Republic-Times newspaper. When he's not working, he enjoys a good movie, bass fishing, and CrossFit.