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Why 'Pokemon Go' Appeals To More Than Just Nerds


  A new phone application called Pokemon Go was released Friday, and now the app has more downloads than Tinder.

Unlike a normal video game, the app gets players out of the house and is a talking point for possible new friendships.

There are at least 100 people on the south side of Utah State University campus on Monday night. They’re mostly college students in their 20s and they all have their phones out, scanning intently for new Pokemon to appear. As I approach them, a rare Pokemon appears, and dozens of them shout and hop on bikes and skateboards to chase the little monster.


As I watch the huge group of people obsessing over the game, I can’t get one question out of my head. That’s when I meet David Zahm, a 25-year-old sophomore at USU, who’s playing the game enthusiastically with his friends. So I ask him:


“I know that a lot of people think Pokemon is, like, really nerdy, and so some people don’t even play it. But obviously this is bringing a lot of people out,” I say. “So are people just overcoming their inner nerd, or is Pokemon not actually nerdy?”

“This is the age of the nerd. The age of the nerd has begun, for sure,” Zahm said. “Whether or not they like to admit it, even the jocks will be playing nerdy stuff with us all the time. Playing Pokemon isn’t a bad thing. There are so many new faces, so many new people to meet. Making like five friends a day... This is awesome.”

I’m not sure whether we can truly call it the age of the nerd, but Zahm’s second idea was one that I heard repeatedly: people love Pokemon Go because it creates so many opportunities to make new friends.

“Normally I’d be sitting on my couch, you know, playing video games at home. Especially this late at night,” said Hunter Hale, a 21-year-old sophomore from USU. “So it lets me get out and meet people and interact. You can meet people online, but it’s not the same because it’s not face to face.”

Hale said Pokemon Go has created a social night life of sorts in Logan, a town that’s usually pretty dead at night.

“I’ve already met a lot of people, just through people that I work with,” Hale said. “So it’s already expanded my friend base by a lot, just by coming out here and talking to people.”

Bronson Fife, a 21-year-old sophomore from USU, says Pokemon Go gives players something to talk about.

“It brings everyone outside and we have something in common and we don’t even know each other,” he said. “I’ve been up here a couple nights now and I’m actually starting to make a couple friends, remember names, and I’ve actually started meeting people randomly on the street and started hanging out with them at that moment and became friends.”

Not only do players meet new people in their own town, it’s also a way to meet people in other places. Here’s David Zahm, who said earlier that now is the age of the nerd...

“As far as I understand, certain cities have a higher influx of certain Pokemon, which is why I’m really looking forward to going down to Salt Lake this week so I can see what they have.”

Elmer Acevedo, a 25-year-old man from Roy, Utah who came to campus to play Pokemon Go with his friends, said the game allows people to cross social boundaries and meet people they never would have thought to talk to.

“We were just talking to someone who looked like she was coming from class and she was wearing a nurse’s outfit,” he said. “And she was like, ‘Oh, are you guys playing Pokemon Go, too?’ And we were like, ‘Of course!’ So I think it’s just bringing everyone together.”

Pokemon Go may be a simple game. There’s no storyline. The only real goal is to catch as many of the little monsters as you can. But at least it’s getting people out of the house, adding a little bit of imagination to reality, and making it a little easier to get exercise and make friends.