The City of Manteca had to go so far as to amend the municipal code to clean up Library Park.
All that they really needed was Pokémon Go.
On both Saturday and Sunday night, Manteca’s downtown crown jewel was overrun not by homeless people, but young people buzzing around on their cell phones, hanging out on benches, and making laps around the concrete pathways to collect PokeBalls and other goodies and – to exercise.
While I knew absolutely nothing about Pokémon before my brother-in-law asked me on Saturday after my baby shower if I wanted to go with him and my niece to go hunt Pokémon, I was blown away by the augmented reality nature of the game and the fact that it puts a heavy emphasis on physical activity – rewarding you with actually walking instead of driving.
The old adage was that video gamers were couch potatoes, but ever since this came out less than a week ago, people of all ages have been outside of their homes – hunting in communities throughout the area for the little pocket monsters (I had to Google that one) and getting swept up in what is undoubtedly the latest craze.
Typically I write this column to talk about my fitness goals and how I’m doing with that, and more often than not it’s just me talking about how I can’t find anything that I can really truly commit to.
And no, I’m not going to turn in trips to the gym for a Pokémon Go-based workout routine.
But In the two days that I’ve been playing, I noticed something unique that wasn’t ever really quite there before – I didn’t want to be in front of the television or relaxing in my recliner because there weren’t enough Pokémon for me in that particular location. So it got me out of the house – it got me into my car and to a destination where I was free to walk around for an hour and hatch my eggs (which require 3.2 miles worth of walking before they’ll break through the shell) and mingle with other people that were all doing the same thing.
Maybe I was a bit too old when the craze hit the first time, and from what I’ve seen I’m pretty close to too old to be in on the current one, but by-and-large the people that I’ve come into contact with – and chatted with, and exchanged tips with, and joked around with – were all either high schoolers or older and all of them were friendly.
The general level of excitement and community was so strong that nobody really noticed that we weren’t sitting inside of an air conditioned home, but were outside walking around a park with our cell phones in our hand.
And it’s fun!
My wife used to struggle to get me to commit to just walking for 30 minutes a day, but if only something like this were out back then I would have easily doubled that and done so with a smile on my face. You don’t realize how far you’re walking while you’re playing because you’re so fixated on what your ultimate end goal is as a Pokémon trainer.
I know I lost some of you at the first mention of the word, and that’s fine. This isn’t something that’s for everybody. And it’s not like I’ve been baptized into the church of the strange-looking Japanese characters and will now sleep with a Pikachu pillow.
But even on a weekend when I could have easily relaxed and done the bare minimum, a cell phone game got me up off the couch, outside, and interacting with people that I would never normally talk to because our common threads are slightly different.
The argument could be made that Nintendo, who created the game, helped contribute to American obesity in young people, and if this is their answer to it they’ve done one helluva job.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few eggs that I need to hatch as I make my laps around Woodward and Library Parks.
Feel free to join me.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.