Exercise and Exploration: How Pokémon GO Won Youth Over

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Austin Wood

More and more parents are catching the Pokémon bug their kids no doubt already have. This mother joined her kids in their hunt for Bellsprout, a sapling-like Pokémon that often appears at Marietta Square’s central garden.

Released for iOS and Android devices on July 7 by developer Niantic, Pokémon GO is a handheld adventure that has already accumulated more than 21 million users in the United States alone, the majority of them young millennials. Using Google Maps and real-time GPS data, the mobile game populates players’ whereabouts with more than 100 different Pokémon species that appear to reside in the real world thanks to a camera-driven interface.

Pokémon GO is rooted in the rosy nostalgia millions have for the original Pokémon animated series and video games, not to mention the infectious childhood dream of actually catching them all. But more than anything, the game is about exercise and social interaction. It’s no surprise, then, that youth programs are integrating the game into their activities by setting up fundraisers at bustling Pokéspots, joining children in Pokémon hunts or just inviting roaming hordes of players to join their cause. Just as Pokémon GO fans find it easy to talk with other players, youth workers and activists can leverage the game’s explosive popularity to connect with young people.