When my son—a 13-year-old video game junkie—turned off his Xbox One this weekend and started taking walks in our neighborhood park, my first thought was that our internet connection must be down. But then I knew something was up when he asked to go to the mall "just to walk around." My son loves window-shopping at the mall with his mom about as much as I love listening to death metal.
It turns out that he was playing Pokémon Go. And judging by the number of people I spotted wandering between Hot Topic and Pottery Barn without looking up from their phones, he wasn't alone.
In just six days, 7.5 million people have downloaded the free Pokémon Go app (available for iPhone and Android) in the U.S. alone, and it has surpassed Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp in terms of how much time people spend on it; the average player spends 43 minutes per day hunting these monsters.
The beauty is that this means 43 extra minutes a day walking or bike riding; even the American Heart Association approves! You can't find Pokémon by sitting on your butt at a computer farming them; you actually have to go places. Parks, malls, historical monuments... Some determined gamers have even canoed out to the middle of lakes in their quest to be Pokémon masters.
On top of that, some eggs require you to walk 2, 5, or even 10 kilometers before they'll hatch. When was the last time you walked that far just to unlock a game achievement? There are even gyms, where you can train your Pokémon to compete and raise your gym's "prestige." Imagine Venice Beach back in the golden age of bodybuilding, except with freaky little monsters. And yes, you have to get out and actually travel to the locations of these gyms.
Pasty-skinned, sun-fearing, teenaged screen junkies aren't the only fans of Pokémon Go. During my lunch break yesterday, I came across a cluster of five employees, all of whom lift—and were presumably off the clock—shouting excitedly about a Pokémon that had just been spotted in the parking lot of Bodybuilding.com's headquarters.
Whether you're a fitness monster or just a lover of monster collecting, grab the app, head outside, and give Pokémon Go a try. Worst case scenario, you'll walk a few miles, soak up some vitamin D, and discover some new local attractions. But be safe: No monster hunting from behind the wheel of a car. Friends don't let friends drive with Pokémon Go!