No, I don't play it but I have 4 kids and a wife who do so I feel like I have a scientific observer's perspective at this point. It's ridiculously popular among a lot of ages but is especially so in the tweens/teens/twentysomethings crowd. What I have noticed:
- It's group play without direct confrontation. My kids and their friends can all go pokemon hunting together or combine forces to battle a gym but you don't see other players and you aren't fighting "that guy standing over there". It's competitive to a degree, but it's an indirect kind of competition, not "PvP" and there is far more cooperation than confrontation.
- It has my kids wanting to go outside! In the middle of the day! In Texas! In July! Hey look it's only supposed to be about 95 for a high today because we're expecting thunderstorms - the last few days it's been 100. While they are outside they are walking around, looking for pokemon, checking on the gym in our neighborhood, and getting in enough steps to hatch an egg. The egg thing is kind of like a fitbit in that you have to get a certain number of steps in to hatch it and then you get a random new pokemon out of it. We had kids old enough to drive and who have their own cars walk to the grocery store to check out the pokemon stuff along the way!
- You can't sit at home and play it - you have to move to go get pokemon. You have to go find pokestops and gyms to advance and resupply for more hunting and you have to be physically near them in reality to utilize their facilities. So it's not that you can get some exercise while playing it it's that you pretty much have to, yet it's not an obvious workout game like Dance Dance Revolution or other "jump around in front of your TV" type games.
The whole thing is genius and is an example of a step towards some of the things I talked about in my RPG Futurist post a while back. Did I say it was a product of genius? I can't say it enough! It's a videogame that kids want to play that requires them to get out of the house and move around the world! It's a holy grail of videogaming!
The other thing I have noticed is how a lot of the news/media sources are desperately trying to make this a dangerous thing, because that's what they do.
- "Someone stepped on a a snake while playing Pokemon Go in a park!" I doubt the snake cares - if they had been playing "catch" I suspect it would have bitten them too
- "Someone found a dead body
while playing the game" - fixed it for you
- "Criminals are using the game to lure people to remote locations and ambushing them" - er, there's no way criminals can "lure" people to do anything in the game. Users have no control over the environment and you can't see other players in the game. The most they could do is sit outside a location designated as a pokestop or a gym and wait for other people to come by but these are usually parks or churches or other relatively well-known spaces. If you're in an unlit park at 2am well, a)that's not new and teenagers have other reasons besides a videogame to be there and b) that's not really the game's fault
For someone old enough to remember it feels a little bit like the beginnings of the Great D&D Bashing of the 1980's, the Great Heavy Metal and Rap bashing of the Late 80's, and the Great Videogame Bashing of the 1990's where there's some initial reporting on this cool and popular new thing (mostly by people who have no clue about it) and then some near-hysterical reporting of possible bad effects of this cool new thing and then a general piling-on of how it's awful and should be banned or regulated or burned in a big gathering outside a church because somehow someway it has something to do with the devil. It's already happening to a degree. I just hope that this one is popular enough among kids who don't care and obviously harmless enough to intelligent parents that it blows over quickly or gets the legs cut out from underneath it by a social media backlash.
Because it's a really cool, fun safe thing that is good for people. It's a work of genius.