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Pokemon Go: Encouraging community and exercise at Bethel
The mobile phone game has re-emerged on campus, despite its rather dated production.
College can be a challenging time, particularly for new students. Trying to find your place on campus can be tough, and community isn’t always easy to come by. While some groups, like sports teams, are easy to identify, a casual observer on the Bethel College campus may not notice a certain community of students: Bethel College’s Pokemon Go players.
Pokemon Go is a mobile phone game that was released in 2016. The goal of the game is to catch Pokemon, but in order to do so, the player has to travel to real-world locations. Pokemon Go rewards walking, and encourages players to explore their surroundings in order to catch new, interesting Pokemon.
On the Bethel campus, there’s a healthy Pokemon Go community composed of students, staff, and faculty. Dr. Allen Jantz, director of teacher education, is a notable figure in the Bethel Pokemon Go scene. Jantz has played the game ever since it was released.
For Jantz, the motivation to start playing Pokemon Go came from his family. “My son played Pokemon when he was little, and we would always get on to him because he was playing too much,” Jantz said. “Well, in 2016 … I was getting ready to go for a walk and he said, ‘here let me download a game for you on your phone, and you can do this while you walk.’ So he downloaded it, I played it, and I've been hooked ever since.”
Although it was his son who got him playing Pokemon Go, Jantz attributes his continued dedication to the game to the health benefits he sees while playing, and even shared, “During the summer I’ll walk 12 to 15 miles a day.”
Dr. Christina Liu, professor of music at Bethel also appreciates the physical aspect of Pokemon Go. During the pandemic, she started playing Pokemon Go, saying, “I would come here at night and walk around campus, there was no one here, and it was fun just to walk around.”
Many of the Pokemon Go players on campus join because they see others doing it. “I joined because another faculty member at the time here played, so I was like, oh, I'll just join because they're playing too,” Liu shared.
This sense of a shared community is seen not just in the faculty, but in the students who play Pokemon Go, too. Riley McGee, a freshman from Greeley, Colo., started playing Pokemon Go soon after it was released. However, before coming to Bethel he grew tired of it. “I started playing because my brothers and my dad played. Then, I quit for a couple years until I got to Bethel and saw a bunch of other people playing, so I picked it up again,” he said.
Although Pokemon Go players on campus are made up of people from all different walks of Bethel life, they do tend to share one thing in common: a desire for community. Especially among students, groups of 3-5 students can often be seen hunched over their phones around a table, all aiming to catch a Dragonite, or other rare Pokemon that just appeared nearby.
“It’s a nice way to connect with people,” McGee said. When a player sees another student making the easily recognizable swiping motion of throwing a Pokeball on their phone, they know that they have spotted a fellow Pokemon Go player.
Jantz, too, appreciates the community aspect of the game. “I’m friends with people here in Newton that otherwise I would never have been friends with. I wouldn't have even known [they] existed.”
“I’m friends with people here in Newton that otherwise I would never have been friends with. I wouldn't have even known [they] existed.”
Although Pokemon Go players enjoy the game, they often face the stigma that comes with playing a “kid’s game.” However, this judgment often doesn’t take into account what players are really gaining from the game.
Jantz said, “My brother in law … plays disc golf. He does it for the exercise. And he literally spends hundreds of dollars on entering tournaments and buying discs. … This is a cheap way for me to do the same thing he's doing. I'm getting exercise.”
Overall, for all the rationales players gave, two motivations for playing Pokemon Go shone through: it’s fun, and it gets its players out of the house. With those two things going for it, it’s no wonder that Pokemon Go is so popular among the Bethel community.