July 18, 2016 /
Jason Galliger

Why Pokémon Go is Good For Urban Trees

If you’ve walked around the District this weekend you may have noticed something interesting — groups of twenty-somethings standing in parks or on street corners staring at their phones.

No, they aren’t using FaceTime.

Instead they are likely playing Pokémon Go, a new Android and iOS mobile app game , developed by Nintendo and Niantic, that’s smashing records and sweeping the nation.

Pokémon Go enables people to “catch” Pokémon during every day experiences in the real world, making every 90’s kid’s dream of “Mom can I get a Pikachu, please?” essentially come true.

The game works like this: using your phone’s GPS and clock it determines where and when you are in the game and makes certain Pokémon appear around you. In order to catch a Pokémon you click it and it appears on your phone’s screen through your camera in real time. You then “throw” a Pokéball towards it to capture it.

The goal of the game is to collect all 151 of the original Pokémon.

Here’s the kicker: in order to “catch ‘em all” players must actually walk around in the real world, a lot.

While Pokémon can technically appear anywhere, most are found in areas where people congregate regularly. Which in urban settings means parks.

Yes, you heard me right. A mobile game is encouraging people to get outside and walk to parks.

This is a huge deal for parks and for the trees within them.

The more people visit urban parks, the more people will appreciate and fight to protect them.

There’s another benefit — getting people out in nature (albeit through the lure of a mobile game) is good for their health. Already the game is getting praise for this.

Even more exciting than that is the social experiences the game provides. Just this weekend alone I was out playing and ended up chatting happily with 5 different groups of total strangers, who not only were enjoying the game, but the scenery and weather as well.

Regardless, of your feelings on Pokémon and the game itself, you have to give credit to Nintendo and Niantic for creating something that gets people up, outside and into parks.

If you want to get involved with helping to protect our urban parks, consider joining our citizen-led Parks Campaign.

Bonus: If you’re a Pokémon Go player, our D.C. park map will come in handy when you’re trying to catch that Pikachu!