Whether or not you're actually playing the new smartphone app sensation that is legitimately taking over the LTE waves all over the country, you've most definitely heard of it.
Or at least bumped into someone on the street who suddenly stopped to throw a Pokeball at a virtual monster.
The unexpected way that Pokemon Go has gone viral is not just because of its immersive design and addictive collecting challenge, it's because it has literally changed the way people are interacting and living daily life.
From the side streets of Manhattan to the waters the Staten Island Ferry traverses, Pokemon Go is creating waves and making things happen that no one ever expected.
1. It's not just Pokemon fans that are playing
The Pokemon craze started in 1996 with two video games for the original Game Boy, followed by a cartoon show and a slew of sequel games, movies and merch that made it become the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world, only behind Nintendo's Mario.
Though the brand has a serious built-in fan base, one of the most surprising things is that not just Pokemon fans are playing. From parents looking to bond with their kids, to people that just wanted to see what the hell the fuss was all about, the game is bringing fun to more than just the Poke-nerds.
According to data collected by StartApp, which tracks 600 million users for downloads and social usage, 40% of adults who downloaded Pokemon Go are over the age of 25, showing that this game is bridging serious demographics, the likes of which are rarely seen in a video game or smartphone app.
2. It's bringing people together
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have done a fantastic job creating the facade of human connectivity, replacing face-to-face interaction with text, pictures, likes and emoticons. We can feel connected to the entire world without ever leaving the glow of our desktop.
However, Pokemon Go challenges this by making people (gasp!) actually leave their houses. The game, which uses GPS tracking to throw wild Pokemon at your current location―as well as those nifty PokeStops and lures that benefit anyone walking by ―has taken mobile gaming to another level.
Just to make things even more interesting, upon reaching Level 5 you are faced with the choice to pick a team of trainers that you will be battling against to take over coveted Pokemon Gyms: Instinct, Mystic or Valor. This feature in itself has caused fierce camaraderie and fiery competition with users.
So whether you're making new Poke-friends while sharing a lure to catch an elusive nearby critter or you've just learned your best friend chose Team Valor and you're Team Mystic (those who play know the severity of that), it's causing unprecedented in-person human interaction via a virtual game world.
3. It's actually getting people off their asses
One of the biggest aspects of video gaming, whether it be a console or on a smartphone, is that the majority of them are played while you're completely stationary. In a time when health and exercise are big on many people's minds, Pokemon Go gives you the ability to do both.
From taking the extra long way home to nab a few extra PokeStops to randomly traversing parks to see what new Pokemon you can encounter, the game has got everyone walking as well as talking. It's essential to the flow of the game. If you don't move, you don't progress. Period.
Qualtrics ran a poll asking trainers a number of questions regarding the game and how it has affected their lives. Of those polled, 43% of trainers reported that they have actually lost weight while playing, with the average amount of weight lost being an impressive 3.2 lbs.
44% have visited a historical landmark for the first time to nab a PokeStop. 24% said they've visited a religious institution for the first time ever and 10% admitted to trespassing on private property to catch a Pokemon. 35% of that group also confessed they have never even played Pokémon before.
The numbers speak for themselves.
4. It's a game anyone can be good at
As the Pokemon you catch are randomly generated, the majority of the game is based on luck and the ability to level up or evolve your monsters to take on other team's gyms. Granted, you have to "throw" a well-timed Pokeball to catch your target, but the skill level needed for the game isn't that high.
With kids as young as 3-years-old and adults older than 55 reported as being trainers, it's very clear that this game was intentionally designed for everyone. Parents are walking around playgrounds with their kids just as much as friends and couples are spotting nearby Pokemon out for each other.
The all-inclusive feel of this app is yet another thing that sets it apart from most of the other games out there. Even titles as popular as Angry Birds and Candy Crush require a serious and stressful amount of skill at one point or another to progress to the next level.
Pokemon Go definitely has its challenges for those hardcore fans and gamers, like that 1745 CP Dragonite at the Team Instinct gym on your corner. But the stress off having to wrack your brain and fingers to level up keeps this game all fun and no frustration for those that want it.
Unless you're trying to collect 400 Magikarp candies to get a Gyarados.
5. It's more than merely a game changer
Game developer Niantic has done something that mobile game developers have been trying to do for years: it's designed a game that can’t exist on any other platform and has tapped into an audience that defies all previously-revered demographic labels. It’s a mobile game that's actually mobile.
Pokemon Go has proven that gamers are ready, willing and able to get up and move if the goals and rewards are right. It's shown that categories like age, gender and location are not barriers that have to be applied or hurdles to be surmounted when creating virtual entertainment for the masses.
But most importantly, Pokemon Go is the perfect storm of advanced mobile gaming, face-to-face human interaction and actual physical movement at a level that has never been executed before. It may sound cheesy, but the game is seriously changing lives and bringing people together.
So fire up that Pokedex, grab some Great Balls and get out there! You'll be glad that you did. We know that we are.
Check out This Interactive Pokemon Go Map.[Feature Image Courtesy The New York Times]