It’s 9 p.m. on a Friday night and I’m on my phone at a local dive bar looking at a digital rendering of the city of Chicago. A buddy walks in and tells me there’s a Krabby on the hood of his car. A Krabby. Anticipation washes over me in an awesome wave.
He’s parked out in front. On my way out the door, I tell the doorman “BRB; Pokémon.”
Outside, I look at my phone and I see nothing. I wait. Then … hey, it’s a Horsea! I tap on the Horsea. Now I’m looking down an alley through my phone and the Horsea is hovering by a dumpster. I flick a Poké Ball down the alley and catch the shit out of the single dorsal fin creature.
I am playing Pokémon Go. And the funny thing is, so is everyone else at this bar. It’s been less than a week since the mobile “augmented reality” game was released in the U.S., and it’s quickly become the most popular thing on the internet since. Your objective: to roam the streets in order to capture, train and battle Pokémon.
If you’re wondering what the hell is going on and why the hell is this draining my phone battery, you’re not alone. Here are five takeaways that’ll help you better understand why everyone — and their mothers — are trying to catch ‘em all.
Pokemon just turned 20, and it just made Nintendo $11 billion dollars richer
It’s absolutely bonkers to think that a smartphone game could add $11 billion dollars to a company’s market value, but that’s exactly what’s happened. And Pokémon Go proves that, two decades in, Nintendo’s franchises are way more important than its hardware. To put it in perspective: the game already has more downloads than Tinder, and it’s coming for Twitter next.
People are finding Pokémon in the weirdest places.
Ultimately, Pokemon Go is a game of walking (and drone-ing?). The fact that you must go out into the real world to digi-hunt down these little creatures is making everyone freak out, and showing friends all the weird places you find Pokémon has become as fun as the game itself. They’re even in Iraq, fighting ISIS.
Unlike other video games, it helps you get in shape
While most video games encourage stasis, Go requires users to get out of the house and walk around in order to accomplish anything. It might even be the best new exercise app on the market.
It can even get you laid
The game is also very social, and nerds everywhere are thanking it for helping them get some action.
… or get you into some serious trouble
Armed bandits in Missouri used the game to lure at least 11 unsuspecting victims to rob them at gunpoint. Philadelphia has seen a string of robberies. It’s making driving decidedly dangerous. And there was that one woman in Wyoming who stumbled across a dead body while searching for Pokémon. So, uh, if you spot a choice Pokémon down a dark alley, keep your other finger on the trigger of a pepper spray can just in case.
But in the end, it’s the game the world needs right now
Biggest takeaway here: some way, somehow, Pokémon Go has become an unforeseen unifier of people at a time when we need one most. Internet forum Reddit is riddled with feel-good posts about people who would probably never cross paths befriending each other and posting selfies together. Hell, it’s even making cops cool.