Campus Life

Student evolved into adult

Trying to learn perspective

A lot of students at MIT spend at least one of their summers in Boston. This was my first summer in the city, and I was excited to explore. As the days passed, however, I settled into a routine: I’d wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, eat dinner, shower, sleep, and repeat. I found it increasingly difficult to go out and experience the city.

Enter Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is a new mobile game recently released by Nintendo. Players walk around their cities to catch the Pokemon that pop up on their phones.

My office, located near Downtown Crossing, entered a frenzy. “Oh my god! Look at the Dragonite over there,” one of the interns would squeal. “Let's walk here for lunch — I heard there are Scythers,” a coworker would say later in the day.

As a result, I spend every lunch break walking for 30 to 40 minutes, often times in parks, soaking up as much nature as I can possibly get. The more I walk, the more eggs I can hatch. Eggs are an item you can collect in the game, and the app uses your GPS location to track how much you walk; if you walk 2 km, 5 km, or 10 km, you can hatch an egg and possibly get Pokemon that don’t normally show up in places you frequent. My Pokemon and I have adventured to new places together, and I've seen as much of Boston these past two weeks as I have my two years here.

One function in particular that helps me explore is the Pokestop function. Different locations in the real world are “portals” where you can get new items like Pokeballs or Potions. They can also function as hot spots where Pokemon are “lured” to.

Because of Pokestops, I discovered Ralph Waldo Emerson’s birthplace marker at Downtown Crossing on my way to work. Before, I didn’t know that he was born in Boston. I dragged one of the other interns over to the spot during lunch, and we read a section of his essay “Nature.”

In the essay, Emerson wrote about the “envoys of beauty.” He suggested that if stars at night were a rarity humanity could come see together, maybe we would appreciate them more. And in a way, Pokemon Go has opened up a chance for me to see the “envoys of beauty” around me — things that normally would have gone under my radar, like this marker, are easily accessible to be appreciated; they’re a new discovery.

The marker was blatantly displayed on the side of the Macy’s wall along the street, but it took exploring the Pokemon world for me to notice it. This feeling of uncovering a hidden world of history and culture in the city I call home, at least around Downtown Crossing, may fade over time — just as the beauty of stars can fade if you see them every night. The beautiful becomes normal.

I've learned more about MIT as well. I never knew that the student center had an art gallery, for example. My friend Jessica and I scrambled to the third floor after seeing a Pokestop. I caught a Paras in front of a beautiful painting of someone's pet cat. I learned the names of a lot of sculptures around MIT — for example, if you walk along Memorial Drive, there is a light brown sculpture located outside. According to Pokemon Go, this is known as the TV Man.

The game has even gotten me to talk to new people. I’m used to just briskly walking from work straight to my T-stop in Downtown Crossing, but at the end of almost every week, I stop in excitement for a violin duo known as Sorry in Advance. They perform exciting covers of current pop songs, such as “Lazy” by Bruno Mars, and they never fail to brighten up my day.  I saw them taking a break after doing a set, swiping around on their phones — very obviously playing Pokemon Go. Bubbly with excitement, I was able to go up to them and geek out over all the best places in the area to catch Pokemon. I thanked them for livening up the square. They were kind and so happy to hear about new places to visit. I put up a lure so that people would (hopefully) come to the spot and hear them play during their next set.

Another time, while adventuring, I met a mother on MIT's campus whose daughter was a freshman teaching for one of MIT's summer programs. The mom was about to buy more Pokeballs, and I showed her how to get free ones by walking around campus and visiting Pokestops. I taught her other basics the game doesn't take you through. She was excited about the game and downloaded it so that she could hang out with her daughter more — they were going to go walk the Freedom Trail together that night, and she bubbled with excitement over skills she would get to show her daughter.

This game has a lot of potential. Players can go out, meet new people, and explore.  We can adventure across this grand city, and even the world, with our friends by our side and monsters in our pockets.