Millions of parents around the world have become aware of Pokemon Go. They see their kids outside catching lots of Pokemon for no apparent reason. Nobody ever wins the game, and nobody appears to be doing any useful work or growing in any meaningful way. So why all the hype? And, as a parent, why should you care?
Let us begin with a useful analogy. Pokemon Go is comparable to hobbies like fishing, hunting, or golfing. Why do people like to go fishing? It is not necessary for our survival, it does not help anybody, and nothing significant seems to be accomplished at the end of the day. However, for the person fishing, they may find great pleasure in the act of catching a fish, being out in the wild, spending a day on the lake, socializing with their friends, and buying better equipment. The activity may relax them, help get their mind off things, recharge their batteries, and so on. All of these reasons seem perfectly acceptable for the dad who spends the weekend fishing or golfing with his friends, right? Well all the same rationale can be used to justify why a person would be interested in playing Pokemon Go.
And why should you care about any of this? Simple. If your child really loves this game, you can use it as an easy tool for rewarding good behavior. This can help them develop better habits over time which in turn leads to better success in school and life. Understanding how the game actually works can help you reward your child in a way that is meaningful to them. As a parent, you actually have an important role in the gameplay. Here are the most important things for parents to understand about Pokemon Go…
NO ORDINARY GAME: As you may have noticed, Pokemon Go is no ordinary video game. Instead of moving a character around with a joystick, Pokemon Go accesses the GPS in the player’s phone (don’t worry, it is just as safe as using your GPS for directions while driving) and the character only moves when the player goes outside and walks around. The entire world is filled with Pokemon to catch, although they tend to congregate more in some areas than others. Certain types of Pokemon are more prevalent in some areas versus others (e.g. water type Pokemon are found more often near lakes, rivers, and oceans). If your kid is interested in catching all 142 different Pokemon, they will need to do quite a bit of exploring, not only around your neighborhood, but in different cities as well (as I said, mom and dad have a role to play in this game). This can be exciting in the same way it is exciting to fish in a new place and catch unfamiliar species.
POKESTOPS: Pokestops are an important element of the game because this is where players can collect items necessary for catching new Pokemon. To visit a Pokestop players must physical go to the corresponding geolocation on their map. The items given at Pokestops are free but only a few items are given at each stop, so players may need to visit at several to load up. Pokestops are located in various places around town. They tend to be away from residential areas and near commercial or public areas, usually at works of art, historic buildings, parks, plaques, and monuments. Pokestops are analogous to a fisherman stopping by a fishing store to pick up more bait, lures, hooks, and fishing line.
SOCIALIZING AT HOT-SPOTS: Pokemon Go is designed to encourage players to go outside, walk around, and socialize. In downtown areas, shopping malls, and some public parks, there is a high density of Pokestops which tends to attract lots of players. When enough players have congregating in the same area (e.g. City Creek Mall, Temple Square), this tends to attract a lot of Pokemon which makes the game more exciting for everybody. Players usually refer to such an area as a hot-spot. Lots of people in the same general area all doing the same activity tends to breed some level of socializing. Players of all ages talk to each other about the game, learn interesting new facts, and may potentially become friends. We recommend teenagers go to hot-spots in groups, and that kids under 12 are chaperoned by an adult.
TEAMWORK: Pokemon Go can also encourage teamwork. Pokemon Gyms are places were players can battle their Pokemon. Like Pokestops, they are located at various locations around town and players have to actually go to the geolocation of the gym to participate. Players on the same team can work together during battles to both attack and defend these gyms. By taking over several gyms players can earn Pokecoins to purchase some cool items that are otherwise inaccessible within the game. Acquiring certain items may have the same effect on your child’s emotions as a brand new fishing boat would have on a person who loves fishing.
BASIC MATH & LOGIC: Pokemon battles incentivize players to use some basic math and logic to raise their chances of winning. The strength of a Pokemon is determined by the Pokemon’s level, which is typically a number from 10 to 10,000. A higher level Pokemon usually defeats a lower level one. However, it is possible for lower level Pokemon to have powerful attack combinations (also measured numerically) which can give it an edge. Players can also use Pokemon of the appropriate type to tip the scale in their favor (e.g. water type Pokemon are strong against fire type Pokemon). If players are smart, they can use these numbers and types to maximize their chances of winning battles. Players can increase the level of their Pokemon by using finite recourses within the game. Players need to make wise decisions for how to use these limited resources the same way adults need to make wise decisions about how to use money. There is also some built in delayed gratification, where if players are willing to be patient, their resources can stretch much further.
In summary, it is perfectly reasonable for your child to be obsessed with Pokemon. People of all ages play it. While it may seem like there is no point, it is similar in many ways to fishing, hunting, or golfing. It has the advantage of getting people outside and walking around. The game encourages people to congregate in the same area and socialize, work in teams, and even use basic math/logic skills. Best of all, parents have an active role to play in this game which can give you some additional leverage when parenting. Instead of seeing Pokemon Go as a bad thing, we encourage parents to use this as a tool to reward their children for good behavior.
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