Pokemon Go has been hyped for a while and despite some issues with the servers, it’s a huge hit. Some are already heralding it as the most addicting app in years. While video games are not a typical topic for us at Strong Towns, Pokemon Go’s unique format makes it worth a discussion here, .

Pokémon is a beloved video game franchise with a great history; it’s arguably one of the most successful games ever. The premise of the previous games was that you were a character who traveled a fictitious world hoping to collect a series of cute monsters. But this game is very different. In Pokemon Go, you actually have to get out, walk around, and look for the monsters. Yes, this game makes you physically walk around your city or neighborhood to catch and collect Pokémon. That unique twist is undoubtedly part of what’s made the game an instant success.

It should be noted that video game players are a community that is typically maligned for being lazy and sedentary. Not any more. Millions of people are now outside, walking around trying to catch these little monsters and they are loving it. Gizmodo published a tongue-in-cheek article essentially saying that we have a walking epidemic.

In addition to encouraging walking, Pokemon Go is also very interactive: It’s not just strolling around waiting to catch monsters, you also have to pick up items at “Pokéstops” and they are all mapped to public spaces or landmarks. There are also eggs that will only hatch after you’ve walked two, five or ten kilometers. Additionally, the game creators made sure that it’s hard to cheat: There’s a speed limit built into the game so you can’t just drive around hoping to obtain the same results.

I think the best part of this game is that it gives people a carrot: We’re all guilty of having tasks that we could accomplish on foot, but we’re simply too lazy, or we come up with a flimsy excuse to use the car. Well, with Pokémon Go, you actually want to accomplish your tasks on foot or bike because you never know what Pokemon you’ll catch along the way. I live in a small city of 50,000, and I have seen more people out and about in this last week than I ever have.

For an urbanist and game-player like me, it’s a double win. I get to go out and enjoy the game, but I also get to take note of all the places lacking infrastructure or aesthetics for people on foot in my town. And while I’m sure some members of my community have noted these issues for a while, now that middle class nerds have to deal with them, that might help catalyze a movement in a positive direction.

Of course, the Pokemon Go hype will eventually fade, but this could be the beginning of a very interesting marriage between the public realm and the private phone. I doubt this one app will be the catalyst that pushes us into a golden age of walkability, but one thing is for sure: if people are going to be out walking, for whatever reason, we need to step up our game in keeping them safe and happy.


About the Author

This article was produced by Strong Towns. It was written by Matthias Leyrer who has been a regular contributor to Strong Towns since 2014. He is an aspiring developer and advocate. A designer by trade, he looks to fill the mundanity of the work week by writing about urban planning, land use and transportation at his blog, keycity.co. He is inspired by the idea that every city deserves the chance to be beautiful and that we can build cities and towns worth passing on to the next generation. In addition to writing for his blog, Matthias assists Strong Towns with graphic design, including the creation of our Strong Towns memes. See more.

Recently Published

Key Takeaway: China’s national champions for semiconductor design and manufacturing, HiSilicon and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), are making waves in Washington. Huawei’s launch of the Huawei Mate 60 smartphone in August 2023 showed that Chinese self-sufficiency in HiSilicon’s semiconductor design and SMIC’s manufacturing capabilities were catching up at an alarming pace. The US has […]

Top Picks

Key Takeaway: Shared attention amplifies experiences and builds relationships, according to studies in various countries. Research shows that synchronous attention with others yields stronger memories, deeper emotions, and firmer motivations. This can be observed in labs across the US, Australia, Hungary, Germany, and Denmark. Shared attention can also build relationships across the political divide and […]
Key Takeaway: Disney has a rich musical legacy, with landmark films featuring musical numbers that remain household favourites today. The studio’s first sound film, Steamboat Willie, (1928), established Disney as the leading animation studio. The silent era of cinema (1923-1928) saw films without soundtracks but often accompanied by local organists or pianists. The Alice Comedies […]


I highly recommend reading the McKinsey Global Institute’s new report, “Reskilling China: Transforming The World’s Largest Workforce Into Lifelong Learners”, which focuses on the country’s biggest employment challenge, re-training its workforce and the adoption of practices such as lifelong learning to address the growing digital transformation of its productive fabric. How to transform the country […]

Join our Newsletter

Get our monthly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.


Welcome to Empirics

We are glad you have decided to join our mission of gathering the collective knowledge of Asia!
Join Empirics