Well, so far I am a huge fan of Pokémon Go. Who would have thought that a screen-based game could generate so much active travel?
The evening Mr Suburbanite downloaded it (for the Redster, of course, not at all for his own benefit) he and the Redster popped out … for two whole hours. They walked non-stop. Interestingly, they walked to the next town centre, which Mr Suburbanite would normally consider a car journey away.
Now we’re on holiday I may have got a little addicted myself. We’ve just come back from an hour’s walk into the centre of Newcastle (Northern Ireland not England) and back, from our cottage near the harbour. If it hadn’t been so late we’d have gone much further, even though it was cold and a bit drizzly. There’s just no reason to stop walking. Every fraction of a kilometre takes you closer to the next Pokéstop, where you can stock up on essentials like Pokéballs, and in real life it’s a local point of interest which sometimes has actual information thrown in.
Of course, your average young local Pokémon hunter probably doesn’t care about the 1843 Newcastle fishing disaster, but now can’t avoid knowing about it (in reality a more recognisable feature of this particular Pokéstop is the public toilet block, but never mind).
Each counted step also works towards hatching your Pokémon eggs. And the more public the place you’re in the more likely you are to come across a ‘wild’ Pokémon. So you just keep walking, often crossing and re-crossing the street to visit and re-visit useful spots, getting acquainted with local history and landmarks, and clocking up the kilometres without even trying.
Given that one of my most pressing goals in life seems to be Getting Children Outdoors, this app is a godsend. Yesterday was Newcastle’s Festival of Noise and Air Pollution (did I say that out loud? I meant Flight) which was actually rather impressive. The seafront is just across the road from the cottage and the perfect place to watch from, but the girls lasted five minutes before begging to be allowed indoors again. Even the Red Arrows in all their glory couldn’t compete with the lure of four walls, a sofa and all the wifi you can eat.
We ended up at the neighbours’ indoors, where there was an extended family gathering (and wifi). But when I suggested a spot of Pokemon hunting, I suddenly acquired a posse of five 8 to 12-year-olds who didn’t wait to be asked twice. A blissful 45 minutes followed. We only had two phones between us, but by the time we were properly out and walking, it didn’t matter. There was grass to do gymnastics on, and the occasional Pokemon or Pokéstop, and then we reached the pebbly beach beyond the harbour where we forgot all about everything except throwing stones into the sea and chasing each other with seaweed. You can’t stand on a beach on a sunny day with all that sea and sky around you and not feel pretty good about being alive…