Pokémon GO, an augmented reality game based on the ’90s cartoon that launched a few weeks back for those living the blissfully free life, has taken the world by storm. The premise is simple – you use your phone to find Pokémon while exploring the world around you:

Get on your feet and step outside to find and catch wild Pokémon. Explore cities and towns where you live – and even around the globe – to capture as many Pokémon as you can. As you walk through the real world, your smart phone will vibrate to let you know you’re near a Pokémon. Niantic, Inc.

On top of catching Pokémon, you visit PokéStops and PokéGyms during your journey, many of which are tied to landmarks, art installations and parks. From the highest of levels, simply an app to get people outside and exploring.

As someone who’s been following the phenomena since it first appeared as a beta many months ago, I’ve been intrigued how passionate people have become both for and against the app.

There are those who share how the app has gotten them outside exploring their city and getting exercise while they do it. Or the story of the Mom who is overjoyed that Pokémon GO has enabled her autistic son to interact with people and break from routine. These are just a few positive stories.

Pokemon GO in the Park

Courtesy of Roger Lew

I would also be remiss if I didn’t include the darker side, where people have been robbed, let the app distract them while behind the wheel, or even trespassed. For every positive story or experience, there is equally a negative one.

When Pokémon GO officially launched in Canada this past weekend, I already decided I was going to check the app out and experience for myself first-hand. Beyond the benefits that many others have shared, I had a personal interest and curiousity in how gamified augmented reality could have a relationship to adult learning (gamification is proven to assist in experiential adult learning).

I wandered around my neighbourhood, catching Pokémon as they “appeared” in the bushes and reeds of the lagoons in my back yard. I also stopped at the different PokéStops along the way to catch my loot. I spent the better part of an hour wandering my neighbourhood, enjoying the hot summer afternoon, and simply experiencing Steveston with some app time in between.

I enjoyed the time spent. It was a positive experience for me.

I wasn’t so engrossed in my phone that I let it dictate every second. I simply put the phone down and walked to where I wanted to visit next, appreciating the outdoors for what it is. Did I see others who had the phone in front of them? I sure did. I think they’re doing it wrong. In fact, any time I pulled my phone up I made sure to step aside and stop walking.

I mentioned this to my wife. I thought she might be interested in the app and thought we could go catch Pokémon together.

You see, my good friend Clay has a differing opinion on Pokémon GO (as expressed in his Clay’s Corner video series). He’s determined the app and phenomena to be of no interest to him. And that’s perfectly fine in my books – while Clay expresses his opinion, he concedes there are both positive & negatives to the overall experience. It’s just simply not for him.

Yet that tweet I linked above set off a firestorm of people declaring both the pros and cons of what some saw as a mechanism to combat obesity in our technological age or a new way to meet people beyond the world of social media. A few people expressed their opinion as fact and discounted a dissenting opinion as being fantasy.

Others suggested that our society should be ashamed of itself and instead of engrossing ourselves so much more in technology, we should simply appreciate the outdoors by… get this… being outdoors. They were the light within the darkness.

As someone who had a positive first experience with the app, it irritated me somewhat that people felt the need to tell me what I was doing was wrong. Whether it was someone telling me that I shouldn’t act so childish or another who told me to hand in my man card (sorry, but I lost that card a long time ago), I kept asking why it mattered to them what I did? It might be of interest to note, similar comments were made when I first began to use Twitter.

It also got me thinking – have we reached a point where we are asking the same questions our parents asked each other when they were our age? How about their parents before them? Technology has rapidly changed society ever since the Industrial Revolution, and while we look back at those times – be it the 18th century or the 1980s – as a golden age, how did those older than us feel at the time?

What’s true about all of this is that today is different from yesterday and tomorrow is going to be even more different from today. We may not like where the world is headed. We may not appreciate an app like Pokémon GO and the impact it has on society. Alternatively, we may embrace what we see in front of us and look for the positives that do exist next to the negatives. We may catch them all or simply wish they were never needed catching in the first place.

I guess the moral of this story is that we are all right as much as we are all wrong. The only reality is that we all have an opinion that we are entitled to, yet don’t have the right to impose it on others.

I simply want to be the very best, like no one ever was.