Pokémon Go was the first title that I played in years which granted me a somewhat-fearless experience in gaming. It allowed me to cast aside some personal doubts, misgivings and assumptions about myself and other people. Not once was I judged for being an adult playing a “kids game”; there were no snide comments about me being a woman in a space that was occupied mostly by men.
The environment was devoid of racist remarks about me being a black player. The unchangeable aspects of myself — the parts of me that were always a “cause” for disruption in other games — weren’t factors among Pokémon Go players. I was just always a fellow player, to whom ridiculous questions like “Do you want to run 12 blocks and three avenues with me to catch a Dragonite?” would be asked.
During my time playing regularly, the Pokémon-obsessed people of New York — comprised of scores of high school kids, financial analysts, journalists, artists, delivery service guys, somebody’s grandparents (seriously), entrepreneurs and more — became my second family.
At first I felt I might have looked the most out of place, based on the fact that I was one of the few women in the streets playing this game who looked like me. But I quickly came to realize that none of that mattered: Pokémon Go created an unlikely safe space in gaming that didn’t exist for me anywhere else.
I was part of that inaugural force of people that made the mobile game into a movement; I invested inordinate amounts of time (and some money) into being the best there ever was. But I haven’t played the game since March, and I wonder if I should find my way back. Read more (Opinion)