Pokémon GO Brings Triumph, Tragedy and Togetherness

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Since the launch of the popular smartphone game, Pokémon GO, people everywhere have either caught Pokémon, or attitude for trying. Whether you're a player or patronizer, the game has had an impact on society. But has it been for the best?

We live in a time where technology has taken over a large part of society. Gone are the days where kids went outside and played for hours on end. Why bother when they can sit in front of a video game, computer or smart device?

Just plug in and the world is at their fingertips. Right?

Pokémon GO has gotten people out of the house and in front of other people once again. And sure, they still have their smartphones in-hand, but once again mankind is traveling in packs and on foot. Exploring the world around them in ways that many of us thought would never happen again.

It's not likely that, as players visit landmarks, they are reading up on history or truly appreciating their surroundings; the first step is getting them in front of it. Eventually they'll open their eyes and discover where they've ended up.

Unfortunately the game has come with some pitfalls. I'm not referring to the server issues the company has had, although a recent patch has cleared that up for the most part. The obsession with the game has caused some players to ignore rules as they fight to snatch up as many Pokeballs as possible. Fire stations and police barracks have issued statements regarding the concern for emergency personnel if parking lots are full of cars and people.

Park hours have been ignored and cemeteries have been invaded by hunters, seeking out the most elusive of Pokémon. If players want to catch as many Pokémon as their inventory will allow, some will feel the need to go above and beyond rational thinking to do it.

For instance: why walk for miles, tracking down Pokémon, when you can drive?

Auburn, NY has the displeasure of being the location of the first automobile accident because the driver was playing Pokémon GO. Thankfully he wasn't seriously injured, and the only damage was to his car and the tree.

This should serve as a warning. You may not be as lucky. Put the phone down or travel with a companion who can 'catch them all' for you.

Promoting team unity is another aspect of the game. As players reach level 5, they can choose to join one of three teams: Mystic, Instinct or Valor. Each team represents an ideal; helping to differentiate players and guide them to selecting their preference. This concept has brought total strangers together for a common cause. Working together to take down rival gyms, meeting up at public locations to go on walks together.

We've taken a technological step forward that allows us to step back, socially, to a day when strangers communed peacefully.

Our society has fears of a resurgence of racial segregation and fear mongering against people who don't look like you. It's important to not overlook the fact that Pokémon GO is making people forget about race or creed. The only color that matters is Blue, Yellow or Red. And while there are a few bad eggs out there who feel the need to shame players of a different team, the majority stand in solidarity to promote togetherness. There is a looming concern that this division of players could create 'gang' like situations, but so far it hasn't gotten to that point.

Players tend to consider the different colors as merely a fraction of what makes up team 'Pokémon'. As a matter of fact, unity has become so important that players have turned to the legendary Pokémon 'Lugia' to promote Unity:

In one community, someone desecrated a landmark by spray painting the words 'Team Mystic' on it. However, in a moment of triumph, two days later members of all three local teams came out to scrub it clean. Blame wasn't placed on team Mystic for the vandalism, as finger pointing only creates additional strife. We often preach patience, tolerance and forgiveness as the path to a peaceful society. In the spirit of the game, team Rocket was accused of the crime.

Rather than insult any and all Mystic players for the heinous act, a playful jab was made to show that it would not tear the community apart.

Unfortunately, you can't have a little light without some darkness creeping its way in. As the sun casts shadows, so too does Pokémon GO cast predators onto the playing field. Knowing that people are out walking around with their eyes focused on their smartphones, muggers and thieves have been spotted around Poke-stops hoping to catch an unsuspecting player by surprise.

Like any strong community, word of this has quickly spread. Players have delivered a loud message to band together and create group walks, preaching a 'safety first' approach.

Pokémon GO is polarizing because it takes a game that many of today's adults grew up with, and offers them a chance to 'catch them all' in a virtual way. This has ruffled the feathers of others who are uninterested in playing games and are focused on 401K's, politics and current affairs. A distaste for something shouldn't be cause for discouraging others from enjoying it.

If that were the case, I'd be petitioning to have broccoli removed from all restaurant menus.

If adults, teens AND children can play along and share the same love and enjoyment for the little pocket monsters, why scoff at them? People should be allowed to enjoy things. Especially things that bring them together.

Shouldn't we applaud peace and unity? All the hashtags, protests and gatherings haven't come close to the unifying power that Pokémon GO has had. Agree or disagree, it would be hard to quantify either way really. That being said, look around you next time your out and about and see what's happening. Watch total strangers lift their phones up and smile as they walk by.

It's the unofficial Pokémon GO greeting.

This isn't a game that needs to be accepted by everyone, but its players shouldn't be met with resistance. People are getting off their sofas, leaving their houses, meeting new people and exploring the world around them.

There are far worse things people could be out doing, rather than trying to catch virtual critters on their smartphones.