Some people just hate fun. At least that’s the impression I get from all of the “I have better things to do than Pokemon” posts on social media. But these people are far sillier than the game they’re making fun of.
Play is a fundamental part of human life. It’s the most important for children, who are seriously suffering from a decline in the hours spent in play over the last few decades. But it’s essential for adults as well. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin reports that people who make time to have fun are 20 times happier than those who don’t. Play sparks creativity, provides relaxation, and perhaps most importantly, brings joy.
While play can come in many forms, games have been a major source of fun for centuries. From Mancala (invented in the fifteenth century BC) to World of Warcraft, playing games provides positive feedback to our brains, a sense of purpose, and a feel of immersive “flow.” If people have a problem with games, they have an issue with a long-standing feature of human existence.
But these people don’t seem to have a problem with games; the fact that it’s a game associated with children seems to be what sticks in their craw. They consider PokemonGo immature, lacking the requisite level of seriousness. I’ve heard the same arguments made against Millennials joining kick-ball and skeeball leagues.
But you know what? Too bad. Not everything needs to be “deep.” Much of the media considered sufficiently serious – from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series to Law and Order – are their own form of adolescent fantasy, full of violence and unrealistic savior scenarios. Similarly, there’s nothing about a specific hobby – be it bowling or racing cars – that makes it particularly adult.
For many people, including myself, PokemonGo and similar activities are a relief from the world’s heavy complexities. I spend a lot of my mental energy thinking about climate change, systemic racism, and global poverty. When you’re deeply invested in such issues, it’s easy to burn out. Taking a break once in a while is essential for your mental health. It’s no coincidence that PokemonGo was wildly successful after a month of horrific violence, with people struggling to deal with issues of gun violence, racism, and homophobia.
PokemonGo is also providing parents another way to connect with our kids. Most entertainment designed for kids is intolerable for adults and most entertainment designed for adults is inappropriate for kids. Having a game you can play together is unique. Because it requires you get out of the house, it even makes running errands a lot more fun. In fact, it transforms the whole world a family gaming location.
Perhaps most importantly, PokemonGo is having a positive impact on society. People are walking and biking places instead of taking their cars – I know my husband has walked to the grocery store instead of driving so he could stop at the Pokestop on the way there. Players are getting out and meeting their neighbors, one of the primary drivers of community engagement. When people are so on edge, it’s providing common ground for them to connect, as this story floating around social media so beautifully illustrates. PokemonGo can even help people with mental health issues, as The Bloggess talks about.
So rather than bash the newest thing because “it’s for kids,” just find something else to enjoy. In the meantime, the rest of us will be hanging out with our Squirtles, Charmanders and Bulbasaurs and having fun without you.