16 Jul 2019

Pokémon Go as an ice breaker

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My Pokémon Go avatar I play Pokémon Go. Yes I am an adult and play Pokémon Go. Again after having stopped for a while. Why? Because it’s a fun game. It connects people do in some way with each other. And for those who think it’s a child’s game; the average age of active players is around 30. At least, when I look at who shows up at so-called raids.

However, this post is not about the different aspects of Pokémon Go or the game elements, there are plenty of other websites about that. No, I want to talk about the social side of the game.

Autism and connecting with people

Making contact with people is difficult. At least it’s hard for me. Although I’m pretty good at social camouflage and you do not immediately notice when you talk to me (I have been told), I still problems with making contact with people. How do you start a conversation? What are you talking about with someone? Small talk is not really my thing … Where do you start talking about? And do they actually like it when I start talking to them? Just some things that play through my mind when I think about starting a conversation.

For me, making contact with people seems no problem. But it costs me quite some energy. Finding an “opening” to start a conversation is often what gets me stuck.

Having a common topic

Starting a conversation is so much easier if you have a topic that both parties are working on. You have a “free” topic to talk about. This usually means that starting a conversation becomes a lot easier. Starting a conversation with a stranger is always exciting. But for me it also costs more energy than it would cost a neurotypic person. Then why do it? Alone is still only alone, having a chat can make nice contacts and in the case of Pokémon Go useful contacts for the game.

Pokémon Go players

When you walk outside on the street, playing Pokémon Go, you almost automatically recognize other players. The way they walk, where they will stand still and constantly looking at their phone. People who don’t play it even recognize us. I often hear comments from amused teenagers; “Haha, that man is playing Pokémon Go!”. I smile and think to myself; “That’s right. I play a game, yes.”

But one of the fun things about the game is the people around it. You sometimes meet people who also play the game and with that you still have a click. We all have one thing in common; we play the same game.

Most Pokémon Go players who play daily have their own routes that they walk. They play in their own neighborhood or in neighborhoods where they often come. Therefore you see the same people more often. At a certain moment you recognize each other, even without talking to each other.

Most people are friendly to each other. Now that the game is a few years old, and the hype is a bit over, the people who play are often fairly social towards each other. They want to help you play and there are often Whatsapp groups where Pokémon Go issues are discussed for a specific area.

House Mystic - Observe, Adapt, Evolve

A chance encounter

A while ago I was house sitting at my parents’ house. They live in a village in the east of the country. A fairly small village, for Pokémon Go means that there are few “stops” 1 and “gyms” 2. Still, I went out almost every day to walk these places for a long time. The game takes care of this by giving you an assignment every day. You will also be rewarded in the game for the distance you have walked. Another incentive to walk.

During one of my rounds I walked to the center of the village. I noticed a girl walking along the other side of the road. I got the impression that she was also playing Pokémon Go. She walked with a telephone in her hand, she stopped at the “right” places and such.

Because I wasn’t sure if she actually played, I first walked on. But when she went to the local church (one of the two gyms in the village) I hung around. She started conquering the point for her team. She was from a different team than the one I am in, I knew that because she had thrown me out of the other gym in the village.

After looking at how she attacked my Pokémon, I restored my Pokémon to full life in one go. Then she looked around and almost directly in my direction. She clearly understood that I was also a player. I raised my hand and approached her.

We greet each other by asking about the color of the team we were in. This sometimes seems to be a standard greeting between Pokémon players. Then the conversation quickly got going.

Two hours later (!!) we said goodbye to each other after a conversation that ended with anything and everything. It was very interesting to have such a chance encounter with someone and to have such a long conversation.

Pokémon Go connects people

It was a huge craze at the start of Pokémon Go. People who never actually came outside, but who liked to play games, suddenly took to the streets. Of course it was a bit ridiculous how people acted at the peak. But it worked; people played a game together in large numbers outside on the street.

And for people like me it was and is a nice way to make contacts with people. And it is also good for my health! Since I play Pokémon Go again, I try to reach the goals for the week (5, 25 or 50 km walk for example!) and I am regularly outside.

I don’t have a dog or other “compelling” reason to walk a long way. But for Pokémon Go I take to the streets. I walk for miles and try to reach a mission every day for which I also have to be outside again. And with Pokémon Go you also meet people you would never see otherwise.

Of course, not every Pokémon Go player is someone who is waiting for a conversation. But they are still the same kind of people. And, because you have one thing in common, opening a conversation is much easier.

Playing with friends

Of course the best thing is to play the game with friends! The competition with each other, sharing the achievements and being able to help each other in the game is fantastic. Not that playing alone is impossible, but it’s a lot more fun with friends.

By playing regularly you might meet people, but there are also enough Facebook groups for Pokémon Go. And I have also seen people in autism groups who play and would like to add people as friends in the game.

My Pokémon Go QR-code

Shameless self-promotion

I’m in team blue, Mystic. I mainly play in the north of the country. Do you want to add me on Pokémon Go? That is of course possible! My code is: 7133 6104 4176

Maybe I’ll see you on the street! Or in my friends list!

Mystic Motto


  1. Places in Pokémon Go where stuff for the game can be picked up. 

  2. Places in Pokémon Go where territory is fought over by different teams. 

Thanks for reading
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Tags: sociaal-gedrag persoonlijk pokemon-go 
Picture of the author David Westerink
David Westerink
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I am David, born in 1984 and I'm autistic. I write blog posts and advocate for autism acceptance. I'm willing to talk to anyone about anything.

I have my own podcast (in Dutch) about autism and neurodiversity! Checkout the AutCast!

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