Let’s be honest – 2016 has been a bit of a write-off so far. Rubbish weather, a boring (and unsuccessful) football tournament and a summer of political upheaval – not to mention the passing of far too many beloved celebrities – has given the year the look of an annus horribilis and we’re barely half way through.
If you’d have said a few weeks ago that all of this misery could have been alleviated (at least temporarily) by an app that absolutely rinses your data allowance and battery life, you’d have been looked at like you needed a nice lie down and a cup of strong, sugary tea. But Pokémon GO is no ordinary app…
For a start, it taps into a craze that – despite peaking 15 years ago – is very dear in the hearts of its target audience. Back at the turn of the century, Pokémon pierced the psyche of tweens through the uber-successful video game series on Game Boy and its ubiquitous trading card spin off in a way that few other fads have ever really matched.
If you’d have told the 12-year-old me that there would one day be a game where you literally walked around and captured Pokémon that appeared in the real world (albeit through a camera), I’d have probably geeked out on the spot.
Bearing in mind that those who were hit hardest by Pokémon obsession the first time around are of the same generation that first took to the immersive social media lifestyle – where everything you need to know about your friends and acquaintances is just a smartphone app away – it isn’t a huge surprise that a new version of the game where you catch ‘em all had more active daily users than Twitter within a week of launching.
The crazy thing about the whole situation is that by all reports the app barely functions. The sheer weight of traffic is strangling the game’s servers, the GPS is often out of whack and loading times can be a killer. But none of that matters.
A friend of mine joined up with a group of strangers on his lunch hour last week to go and catch Pokémon in the centre of Nottingham. Another has added an extra mile onto his walk to work just to get 20 minutes more game time in. This is how you get fit and meet people in 2016, and that’s no bad thing.
Those not of the fabled millennial generation love to tell the story of how everyone being glued to their phones is killing social skills and things were much better in their day when they were hitting a hoop with a stick, but the fact is that Pokémon GO has not only got people out of the house and interacting with each other, it has also got us sharing something that unites at a time when there is so much that divides.