How Pokémon GO became Australia’s #1 free school holiday activity

Chris Stead 8 July 2016

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Parents looking for a free, thrilling and active experience to give their kids this winter holidays could find the answer right in their pocket.

There’s no sugar-coating it: cold rainy days and school holidays aren’t a great mix. Especially when everything the kids want to do costs an arm and a leg. If, like me, you’re trying to find a cheap and enjoyable way to keep your kids entertained during the school holidays, I may have a solution that comes from an unlikely source. It’s a video game on your mobile phone, but one that actually encourages physical activity and stimulates the imagination in a way you’ve unlikely to experience before. That’s right, you don’t have to feel guilty about your children hunkering over a small screen on the couch while flashing lights dance across their face and cheesy ditties blast into their ears.

And best of all, it’s free. Woo!

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What is Pokémon GO?

The game is Pokémon GO, which was released on 6 July and is currently taking the world by storm, attracting a demographic unbounded by age, race or sex. Created by Nintendo with the help of developer Niantic, it’s a spin-off entry to the main Pokémon series your kids have likely seen countless times in magazines, or played on handheld devices like the 3DS. In the traditional game, the player explores a virtual world as a trainer, seeking out and capturing little colourful creatures called Pokémon. These Pokémon have different abilities and skills, which the player must use successfully in combat; this requires plenty of lateral thinking and strategy, and battles are kid-friendly, void of gore and theatrics.

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The new Pokémon GO spin-off is a fresh twist on the same type of playing experience, which swaps the virtual world for the real one. Via the camera on your mobile phone and GPS technology, the game uses augmented reality to create the illusion of Pokémon roaming the real environment. As you walk through the streets of your neighbourhood or town, the game alerts you to the presence of Pokémon in the vicinity. The player then hunts around objects using the phone as a window, trying to capture Pokémon so they can be added to their available catalogue of critters.

Outside of these random opportunities to capture Pokémon, key locations have become GYMs, where trainers can battle each other and evolve their abilities and those of their Pokémon. So far we’re finding that major landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Tower are homes to these GYMs, with more locations appearing as players discover them. We’re populating an up-to-date database of locations with a handy map.

Why is Pokémon GO great for kids and parents?

As well as being cute as a button, incredibly engaging and super fun, the game also wonderfully talks to a child’s imagination. The idea that these fantasy creatures are running around their streets and parks, and that by going out and exploring they can track them down and capture them into their phone, is pretty awesome. From a parent’s perspective, Pokémon GO is a win-win.

Here are five great reasons why I think parents around Australia can substitute the game for an expensive school holiday activity and still come out with happy kids.

It's free to download

Pokémon GO is free to download – you can grab it right now on iOS or on Android – so there is no initial cost at all to dive in and money only need be spent by impatient players who want to jump the queue and get Pokémon quicker than they can by exploring.

It gets the kids outside

Pokémon GO encourages the kids to leave the house and go for walks – inspiring them to go out and see what they can discover rather than just sitting on the couch.

nido-bridge

It makes otherwise mundane trips fun

Pokémon GO makes an otherwise mundane trip a chance to discover something new that they haven’t found in the game before. Going to grandma’s house? Going to the shops? Walking the dog? Suddenly such “boring” activities are an opportunity to find new Pokémon and GYMs. You can even – if it is raining – just drive around in the car or ride a bus and opportunities will pop up on the phone as you go past.

It stimulates imagination and mathematical thinking

Pokémon GO engages their imaginations and their brains, asking them to find wonder in the world around them and to then to do the maths on each Pokémon’s abilities so they can correctly battle opponents.

It encourage socialising in the real world

Pokémon GO encourages socialising: not only are kids (big and small alike) talking right now about this game and the Pokémon they have discovered, but all across the country we are seeing people gather at key landmarks to battle against each other and enjoy the shared experience and world.

It sets walking goals

In Pokémon GO, players collect eggs from Poké stops. Once they have an egg, the player has to walk for 5 kilometres while the egg incubates. After they've hit their goal, the player is treated to a new Pokémon that hatches from an egg. It's an incredibly clever way to get kids walking.

poké egg

Where to find gyms and Pokémon

We're putting together a map of locations you can visit to battle gym leaders and catch rare Pokémon all over Australia.

If you’re interested in diving in, I’ve also prepared a detailed tips and tricks article to help you get started. It’s worth a look, especially for the tips on how to manage your phone’s battery life. Sadly, we’ve yet to work out how you stop your kids fighting over who gets to hold the phone…

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