Like many, I grew up throwing plastic poké balls at Beanie Babies. So it’s no surprise that I’m addicted to Pokémon Go. In fact, it’s on my iPhone screen right now. There’s an evasive Seadra in the area.
Just kidding! The servers are down.
While the eight-year-old wannabe Pokémon trainer in me connects with the game, so does the writer in me. Parts of the Go experience mimic the storytelling experience.
1. The Obsession
When I write, I become utterly obsessed. I change my entire life to accommodate the writing. If I run 1mph faster than normal, I can write an extra 50 words today. With Pokémon Go, it’s If I leave the house 10 minutes early, I can take that gym by the ball field.
Thankfully, writing and Pokémon hunting occupy two separate parts of my life so neither interferes with the other.
2. Naming and Training
I spend a lot of time naming my characters, searching for name meanings and considering possible associations. The naming process is part of attaching myself to a character. We spend a lot of time together as I get to know them and tell their stories. Most writers can attest that characters wind up feeling like friends.
After catching a Pokémon (which likely involved chasing it around the park for 10-20 minutes), giving it a cute/nostalgic name, sacrificing other Pokémon to Professor Oak in order to strengthen it, and evolving it to its final form, I become extremely attached to my Pokémon. (My pride and joy is a 1048CP Nidoqueen named Panda. We’ve been together through 35 Nidorans and several lost gyms.)
When I’m working on a writing project (especially a challenge likeNaNoWriMo), milestones are huge. I might type my fingers to the bone to hit 2k on my daily word count, only to realize I’m 250 words away from 10k total. Then, of course, I can’t stop at 2,250 words for the day. I have to keep going until I get 3k. Granted, I also do this when I run (Just get to that rock, then take a break. Ugh, that light pole is so close. Just run there. Wait, I can see trailhead!) so it might be a personal quirk. But I would guess most of us feel this in some form.
After all, it’s the main addictive feature of Pokémon Go. Each time you catch a new Pokémon, you reach a milestone—and create another. Now I have to catch six more so I can evolve it! We level up with XP, feel a moment of achievement, then watch the bar drain and start from zero. The constant cycle of goal creation and fulfillment keeps us glued to the game.
As writers, it’s important to recognize what sorts of things drive us to productivity. If you love Pokémon Go, consider whether milestones drive your writing, and try to set more of them. [Click to Tweet]
Gaming is typically thought of as a solitary activity. Yes, you might invite friends over to play, but you’re not likely to meet new people playing video games (at least not outside of the game). Pokémon Go is different. Players all flock to the same areas, and it’s relatively easy to spot each other. (Just look for the person pointing their phone in the air and swiping with an intense expression on their face.) We can walk up and say, “Hey, what team?” (If the answer is Mystic, I shake their hand. If it’s Instinct, I shake my head disapprovingly. If it’s Valor, I kick dirt on their shoes and walk away.) Either way, we get to connect with people with shared interests and experiences.
Writing, too, is often seen as solitary. But it’s not. Most of us know that meeting other writers and nerding out about our WIPs is one of the best parts of the gig. Talking about books. Consoling each other after rejections. Being part of the writing community is a huge part of being a writer.
While you’re helping me through that rejection, know I lost a Dragonite yesterday. Yeah.
Hold your breath for a second. I’m getting on my soapbox. This one isn’t just for writers, but it is extremely applicable to writers. The majority of our work happens at a desk. Or in a coffee shop. Or in a porch swing. Common thread? We’re probably sitting. Unless you’ve got a treadmill desk, actually writing while moving is tough to accomplish. And because we’re obsessive creatures, other parts of our lives tend to get neglected. Including exercise.
That’s not good. We all know that, yes, but do we give it enough attention? If we don’t take care of our bodies, our minds will not function at full speed, and that means our writing will suffer. So if a game like Pokémon Go can get us up and moving, it gets an A+ from me.
Let me just lower myself off this soapbox. It’s kind of slippery.
One last thing...
Tell me in the comments, are you playing Pokémon Go? Have you noticed similarities between it and writing? And what’s the strongest Pokémon you’ve caught so far?
P.S. Have you heard about my latest project? I'm putting together a creative anthology devoted to brain injuries! Please support the project by entering your email address below to receive updates—and a free story following the anthology's publication!