Christmas Gift Shopping Tips

holidays

Hey everyone, happy holidays! I hope your days are filled with Holiday cheer, laughter, fun with family, and all around merriment. That being said, I’m sure there is also plenty of stress planning for relatives, figuring out vacation plans, and of course the worst thing of all: gift shopping. I’m obviously not saying that giving gifts is a bad thing, but if you’re like me then you definitely have had plenty of years when everything was done last minute.

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Last year I wrote an article about ten great board games to buy as last minute Christmas Gifts. This year I wanted to throw out a couple ideas for good ways to get quality gifts for your friends and family with time to spare. Hopefully you’re all finished with your shopping this year, but if not I hope these tips will help you look in the right place this week. So without further ado, here is Christmas Shopping Tips Round 2, Electric Boogaloo!

Amazon Prime is your Friend

I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single gift I bought for Christmas this year was off of Amazon. It’s mind boggling to me how they are able to provide so many products atamazon a competitive price, and guarantee that almost all of them can get to you within two days. Am I fishing for a sponsorship right now? Perhaps. But I’m also serious when I say that Amazon can be a lifesaver for busy people who can’t find time to go out to a store and need gifts delivered in a hurry. In addition, if you have an Amazon Prime subscription you can get a number of games (and anything else you can think of buying) with two days free shipping! Just for reference, I did a search for board games on Amazon and was able to find the following games right away:

Check Websites for Holiday Sales

It’s hard to deny that board games can get expensive, especially newer ones. Luckily enough, around the holidays most businesses take advantage of the holiday rush and provide big sales to incentivize people to buy their products. You see this as early as Black Friday, but a lot of deals stay valid until all the way through to Christmas Day. If you want to see what type of discounts are available before going shopping, most stores now have an online catalog on their website with information about the sales that are going on. This is more common with large stores rather than small businesses, but it still is helpful to know how much you’ll spend before you walk into the store. I recommend checking out Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us to see what sales they offer.

Local Stores have a Larger Stock

If you’re lucky enough to have a local game store near you, I highly recommend going to see their selection if you get a chance. They might not have exactly what you’re looking for when you first walk in, but they probably have a lot of good alternatives and their game selection will be much larger than any other chain store in the area. On top of that, supporting small businesses is always a worthwhile venture, so if you have the opportunity don’t skip out on checking them out!

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Board Game of the Week- Bards Dispense Profanity

Before I get into the game review portion of this post, I wanted to share some good news with everybody. A month ago, I had one of the best moments of my life when I asked my Girlfriend to marry me- for some crazy reason she said yes, so I am officially engaged! It is definitely a moment I will cherish forever, and not just because I asked her in the middle of a Laser Tag session (yes, we are nerds) but also because of the pure joy we both had in the idea that we will get to spend the rest of our lives together. OK, now back to what you’re all here for, reading reviews about new games that you can judge vicariously through me!

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I got Bards Dispense Profanity as a gift for my fiancée- she is an English major and I had read good things about it, so I figured it was worth a try. We tried it out with my roommates a few nights ago, and it didn’t disappoint. As you probably guessed, this game is a parody of Cards Against Humanity, the popular card game where you play inappropriate cards to try and get hilarious reactions out of the group. The game mechanics are exactly the same as CAH- you take turns playing as judge, the judge picks out a “prompt card” and the other players play a card to fill in the blank of the prompt card. The judge then reviews the cards and chooses the one he/she thinks is best, whether that is funniest, most accurate, or basically whatever they feel like choosing. The way that Bards Dispense Profanity varies is that the game’s play cards are all direct quotes from Shakespeare plays. For those of you who don’t know much about Shakespeare’s writing style, it may look fancy but in reality it is quite dirty. This can lead to some very entertaining answers, especially to people well versed in the Hamlets and Much Ado about Nothings of the world.

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The best part of the game that I found was that it is a fresh take on a game I already know and understand. I didn’t have to learn how to play the game, I simply opened up the box and dealt out the cards, and we were off to the races. It’s nice playing a game bards-rulesor the first time and feeling like everybody knows what to do, and even better it doesn’t feel like the same game you’ve always played because of the new cards and style. I also appreciate that the game is a bit more highbrow in its profanity- in no way does the game avoid dirty jokes, but it does find a way to make them more intellectual. Finally, the game is a great for social events and can be played with any number of players.

The downsides to the game parallel the issues with CAH- the gameplay can get stale on multiple play-throughs and there is no defined stopping point for the game. Also, even though I appreciate the fact that the game mechanics were identical to CAH, I do wish that they had added another component somehow. Similar game styles can feel like rip-offs very easily, and while the different cards are fun new content I feel like that’s the only draw of the game. Finding a different style or some new element would make the game more interesting. The closest they got is that some of the prompt cards direct you to judge based on other player’s preferences, which was a cool idea, but was not used enough to be a big part of the game.

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If you’re looking for some adult but classy fun, I think Bards Dispense Profanity is a pretty good choice. While it mirrors other games already in existence, it does bring its own flair and can be a great time for people who are fans of literature. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find the nearest performance of Macbeth…

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars

One Year of Blogging

I was recently notified by WordPress that my blog has been active for a year now. Considering it feels like I am just getting started on my blogging adventures, I was shocked to see how long this has been going! To commemorate my year-mark, I would first like to thank everyone who has read my blog, followed it, and commented on my articles. The gaming community is awesome because of people like you, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Next, I thought I would talk about a few realizations I have made about blogging over the past year. I’m sure the current bloggers out there can relate, and if any of you are considering starting up a blog for the first time these are also helpful for you to know!

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  • It gets harder to post as time goes on- When I first started The Boardwalk Games, I set a goal for myself to write at least 3 posts a week. I thought that this was a reasonable number of posts and would drive traffic to my site without overdoing it. I was recently looking at my posting history for the past 2 months, and that number has gone down quite considerably since then. I feel like this is a common issue with blogging as a whole- it is hard to keep up a consistent stream of material for a long period of time for a number of reasons. For me it seems like the reason for this drop was mainly because I have been very busy both at work and in my personal life lately and also I have written reviews for a number of the games currently in my possession, so I have less new material to write about. While at first I was frustrated that I cannot dedicate time to posting more regularly, I realized that this is actually a good thing in a way. When I started blogging, regular posts were a way to get my blog more views and make sure The Boardwalk Games was noticed. Now that I have a steady/increasing stream of viewers, I don’t have to focus on a large quantity and can simply post when I want to. I still try and write something once a week, but knowing that I can write based on my own schedule helps make The Boardwalk Games fun and not a burden.
  • You get out of the blog what you put into it- This is something I found out from a number of ways, but I think the biggest one was the marketing and relationship-building side of things. I have never been a huge Twitter person, but I created agametime Twitter account for the blog and quickly realized that the more active I was promoting via Twitter and Facebook, the more opportunities there were to get new viewers. In addition, I dedicated a lot of time to finding blogs with similar topics to mine (or just blogs that I liked) and following them/commenting on them. Bloggers like to interact with each other, and in addition to reading and enjoying a lot of good blogs I got a chance to increase my own group of followers.
  • Stats and Trends are helpful, but don’t get overwhelmed by them- WordPress has so many great functions and tricks that you learn as you go, but my favorite been has always been the Stats breakdown they provide. You can see data on the number of one-yearviews your site has had in a day, week, month, or even a year. It tells you the day and time you receive the most views, and goes into each blog post and checks what has been read the most and what the traffic of your recent posts looks like. It can even tell you which country the viewers are from (I seem to get a lot of people from the UK and Italy reading my blog). These stats are extremely helpful and can be a good indicator of ways to improve your blogging. That being said, some of the data can be misleading. For example, there’s a difference between the number of views and the number of viewers, so sometimes you get a bunch of people checking out 1 page of your blog and other times it’s a few people reading through a lot of different articles. Also if somebody viewed your site, that doesn’t necessarily mean they read anything- I use images on my Blog, and sometimes people will do a Google Images search and find the image without going into the web page content itself. This happened to me once when I used a picture of David Bowie, only to find a week or so later that David Bowie had died and everyone was looking up images of him to post as tribute. The point is, looking at your blog’s stats is a great resource, but be sure to take the numbers with a grain of salt and don’t feel like you have to drastically change your blog because of one piece of data.
  • Have Fun- I blog because I want to, not because I’m obligated to. I don’t make any money for doing this, so I do it because I enjoy it. I also think it helps me improve my writing skills, but ultimately I can find other ways to do that, so I believe that having fun is the most important part of blog writing. If you aren’t enjoying yourself when you’re blogging, it’s hard to stay motivated and continue improving your craft. Make sure that what you’re writing about is something that you’re interested in, and your blog will feel less like a burden and more of a fun project.

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That’s all for now. Again, thank you so much to everybody who reads this blog, I appreciate your support!

Board Game of the Week- Codenames

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  • Game Title: Codenames
  • Release Date: 2015
  • Number of Players: 2-8
  • Average Game Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Czech Games Edition
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/178900/codenames
  • Game Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
  • Expansions/Alternates: No
  • Available in Stores: Yes

 

I have seen plenty of reviews of the game Codenames online, and it looked like everybody enjoyed the game as a whole. I put the game on my list to try a long time ago and never got a chance until this past weekend, when I went to a Birthday party with a group of board game enthusiasts. We divided up into two teams and ended up playing two rounds before moving on to other activities, and I thoroughly enjoyed both rounds and the game strategy as a whole. At first I thought that you needed an even number of people to play, but after playing I do believe you could have an odd number of players if you really wanted to.

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Codenames is a two-team competitive card based game focused on one team member providing clues to the other team members that relate to specific code names. The game is set up by placing 25 “agent” cards down in a 5×5 row- these cards have a word on them, which is the code name of the agent. Then the team members chosen as Spymasters choose a Map card that shows which agent is on which team. Only the spymasters are allowed to see the map card. The map is set up to show which of the cards on the 5×5 grid are red agents, blue agents, civilians and the assassin. The object of the game is for the spymaster to provide a one-word clue to their team that relates to as many of the codenames as possible that are assigned to their team color. The other team members then guess which code name (or code names) the spymaster is trying to get you to choose. If the team is able to find all of their teams’ agents, they win. However, if they choose the opposing team’s agent, that agent is revealed and the other team has one less word to guess correctly. Guessing a civilian doesn’t hurt, but it does end your turn and leaves you unable to guess again if you wanted to. Guessing the assassin means that your team automatically loses, so the assassin should be avoided at all costs.

The biggest part about this game is the strategy of choosing words both as the spymaster and a team member. For the spymaster, the goal is to choose a word clue that can be linked to multiple agents on your team without misleading your team and causing them to choose the other team’s card or the assassin. There is also strategy in choosing a word that only could apply to one card, making sure that there isn’t any misunderstanding and effectively “playing it safe”. On the other side, the team members choosing the agents must strategically choose how many cards, and which cards, they want to choose. They can choose one card they are sure of, or they can choose multiple cards and take more of a risk. This is usually dependent on which team is winning and how confident you are that your spymaster is indicating a certain card.

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The most impressive thing about this game is the sheer number of variations: the game consists of numerous code name cards and map cards, so the possibilities of the cards on the grid and the options for agent card layouts are effectively limitless. The game encourages teamwork and strategy and is great for groups of close friends and strangers alike. Finally, the game is easy to set up and quick to play, so it is a perfect party game. The one downside I could think of with the game is the fact that while you can play with an odd number of players, ultimately it is easier/better to play with an even number so that no team gets an advantage. There are also a number of “player’s choice” rules revolving the hints that can be made, such as using Pronouns, that need to be addressed before the game starts. If your group forgets to go over these rules, it can cause confusion.

Overall I recommend Codenames as a great party game with a lot of fun strategy in a simple package. While the game says up to 8 players, you could certainly find a way to include more people if you choose, making it ideal for larger groups. In addition, the game can be played in small groups with the same effect, so don’t skip on it with 3-4 players either.

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Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Zombicide

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  • Game Title: Zombicide
  • Release Date: 2012
  • Number of Players: 1-6
  • Average Game Time: 45-180 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Guillotine Games
  • Website: https://zombicide.com/en
  • Game Designer: Raphael Guiton
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Online

I got my copy of Zombicide way back in February, but didn’t get a chance to play the game because it looked so complicated and I wanted to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to learning the rules. The game sat on my shelf and was passed over for games like Hanabi, Exploding Kittens, and Ticket to Ride all spring and summer. Finally I was able to try it out last weekend with my roommates and my girlfriend. Not long after opening the box, I realized that I had truly missed out on playing an amazing gem of a game before that night.

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Zombicide is an in-depth, interactive cooperative game based on surviving the zombie apocalypse and achieving specific mission objectives. The game has ten missions, each of which has a different board layout and strategy, so it is a completely different experience every time you play. The game is very intense; the rulebook is about 30 pages long and it took us at least half an hour to get everything set up and ready to play. Still, once we learned the game mechanics it was the best game I have played in a long time. It plays very similarly to Dungeons and Dragons (yes, I play D&D, are you surprised?) You roll to attack, you gain experience and level up to get more experience zombicide-amypoints, you equip weapons that you find by searching a room/area, and you have the option of trying to be sneaky or barging in guns blazing. The underlying premise is to move from different “zones” on the map and either defeat zombies, find items, or reach objective points depending on the situation at the time. All while this is happening, more zombies are arriving and looking for a way to get to you and eat your brains. There are rules for combat, item usage, and taking damage, and after each turn new challenges form that you have to overcome. Because the game is cooperative, if a character dies your team can still win; it is possible to sacrifice yourself to keep your teammates alive as they reach their mission objective.

Zombicide is a great way to spend an evening for a number of reasons. It is extremely engaging and is set up to add difficulty as the game progresses, creating a fun gaming experience all the way through the mission. Because the game is cooperative, there is a lot of discussion around player actions and what moves everyone should make, which encourages communication and combined strategy. The game is truly immersive, making it easy to get engrossed in a mission and suddenly look at the clock and see it’s 1 AM. And yes, I am speaking from experience… Finally, the artwork and models used for the game are great because they have a fun and unique style. With 4 different types of zombies, 6 player options, and a number of different maps, you see the designer’s talent all over the board with Zombicide.

zombicide-maps

I think the game’s biggest issue would have to be its length. Of the ten missions that are available, only one of them is under an hour (not including the tutorial), and there is one that is listed as being around 3 hours long. The game is set up to be very lengthy and evolving, and while that is a lot of fun it is also difficult to dedicate that much time to a game. It’s definitely more tailored towards hardcore gamers, but it is also a lot of fun for casual players if they are willing to dedicate the time to playing. In addition, the game takes up a lot of space, so it doesn’t work well as a travel game.

Overall, if you’re looking for an intense gaming experience with a high level of difficulty and a great game mechanic, this is the game for you. While not applicable to all situations, I guarantee that if you take the time to learn the game you will have a great time and will want to play it again.

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Jack’s Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Board Games on a Budget

There have been a lot of positive changes in the board game industry over the past few years. Unfortunately, one of the negative side effects of games becoming more intricate and advanced has been a higher price tag for a number of games. Game pieces have become more intricate, artwork more painstaking, and boards more elaborate as a whole, causing the cost of making the games to rise and consequently the price for the consumer to rise as well. A number of the games that I have mentioned on this blog are sold in the $50+ range, and while I enjoy investing my money in good games I also realize that people on a budget are looking for better options. In response to this, I have put together a list of my favorite games that you can buy for less!

Under $10- Games in this price range are almost always compact and straightforward card games. Card games have a significantly lower production cost than board games, and the straightforward play style means less space needed for rules or additional pieces.

1) Set

  • Price on Amazon: $8.27
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Number of Players: 1-20

2) Hanabi

  • Price on Amazon: $9.77
  • Average Game Time: 25 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-5

3) Pit

  • Price on Amazon: $7.73
  • Average Game Time: 45 minutes
  • Number of Players: 3-8

4) Rook

  • Price on Amazon: $5.50
  • Average Game Time: 45 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-6

5) Loot

  • Price on Amazon: $8.75
  • Average Game Time: 20 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-8

Under $20- These games are slightly more complex than those in the $10 range, but still are primarily card-based and do not have a large amount of additional pieces. The artwork on these games is of good quality and the gameplay is in the easy to mid-range.

1) One Night Ultimate Werewolf

  • Price on Amazon: $17.99
  • Average Game Time: 10 minutes
  • Number of Players: 3-10

2) The Resistance

  • Price on Amazon: $13.00
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Number of Players: 5-10

3) Sushi Go! Board Game

  • Price on Amazon: $14.39
  • Average Game Time: 15 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-5 players

4) Munchkin

  • Price on Amazon: $18.89
  • Average Game Time: 60 minutes
  • Number of Players: 3-6

5) Codenames

  • Price on Amazon: $14.39
  • Average Game Time: 15 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-8

Under $30- If you’re willing to pay up to $30 on a game, you can really find some impressive gems. These games can be quite complex and have a number of different moving parts and pieces, but also keep the boards they use relatively compact in comparison to other games.

1) King of Tokyo

  • Price on Amazon: $28.81
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-6

2) Citadels

  • Price on Amazon: $24.95
  • Average Game Time: 40 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-8

3) Pandemic

  • Price on Amazon: $24.99
  • Average Game Time: 50 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-4

4) Qwirkle

  • Price on Amazon: $24.70
  • Average Game Time: 45 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-4

5) Carcassonne

  • Price on Amazon: $22.39
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-5

Overall, while playing some of the best games on the market will cost you more, you can find some great value on the cheaper side of the gaming industry too. If you keep an eye out for good deals and understand the level of investment you want to make on board games, you will soon find yourself with an impressive collection without breaking the bank.

A Defense of Pokémon Go

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This article is about a topic that is not really related to what I normally post on this blog, but over the past few weeks it’s become something I am passionate about and want to voice my opinion on. As I’m sure you’re all aware, a little over a month ago one of the most anticipated and exciting apps hit the streets. Pokémon Go took the entire world by storm, crushing the previous record for downloaded apps and creating a phenomenon previously unprecedented in the gaming community.

With the fervor of the new game also came a significant amount of criticism, some of it warranted and some of it not, based on a number of real world events and outcomes directly associated with the app. A few people acted irresponsibly and put Pokémon Go users in a bad light, but a vast majority of the people playing the game do so in a safe, pokemon go dragonitepositive, and fun way. As a Pokémon Go player myself, I’ve seen countless media outlets bashing a game they do not understand and have not played, and so I have decided to write my own defense of the app to explain why it is a benefit to our society and not a burden.

A few notes before I get started: I am writing this a month after Pokemon Go’s release for two reasons. First, I did not want the article to get swept up in the hype of the game. Second, the game still had some glitches to sort out (and it still does) so I wanted to wait and let the major bugs and issues get fixed before commenting. Also I want to note that I am not trying to promote the reckless use of this game- it can be used improperly, and I want to stress that you should use it in a safe and respectful way at all times. Now then, let’s get down to it!

1) Safe to play (if used correctly) – A lot of the concern initially about Pokémon Go was the IMG_3736idea of safety. People argued that the game would promote actions such as running into traffic, using your phone while driving, and overall ignorance of a player’s surroundings
while they stare down at their phone screen. While there have been some people who have certainly taken on this style of play, I would argue that the people using Pokémon Go in this way are people who would be doing it regardless. In addition, the game itself lends very easily to safety and awareness: you are constantly reminded to be watchful of your surroundings, and you don’t have to look at your screen constantly when playing so it is very easy to look up and be aware at all times when you play. As I said earlier in this article, a few people acting irresponsibly has caused a large number of safe players to be criticized for playing, and while understanding the safety concerns of the game is important I firmly believe that Pokémon Go is as safe as any other location-based app on phones today.

2) Rewards activity and fitness- I have been working on being more active over the past
few months, and Pokémon Go has increased my desire to do so substantially. I have been running about 3-4 times a week, and every time I use my app when running to rack up distance and catch new Pokémon. I’m sure that I still would have been going on runs even without the game, but I can honestly say that it makes it more fun and helps motivate me to run farther and faster than ever. I know I’m not the only one too: I have heard plenty of stories online of people losing significant weight because of the game. Naysayers have been arguing that we shouldn’t need a video game to motivate kids to go outside, but honestly why should it matter why people are being active as long as it’s working?

3) Does not force players to go to cemeteries or historic landmarks- This is one of the aspects of the game that I felt was a flaw when it was initially launched. For those of you who haven’t played Pokémon Go, a significant portion
of playing is finding landmarks in your area that can either provide you with items or cause battles with other players at “gyms”. Most of these areas are set up in high-traffic and noticeable locations, including churches, libraries, museums, and historic landmarks. None of the stops are directly on businesses (though they can be close- more on that later), but the areas have brought about some major controversy. A number of prominent historic landmarks and locations meant for grieving, such as Arlington National Cemetery, had Pokestops assigned to them and brought players to the location for the sole purpose of playing the game. This is a distraction and an insult to those trying to mourn and it never should have been set up that way, and those players who decided to play the game without thinking of their surroundings were extremely disrespectful. That being said, I know I would never set foot in a location that I thought would be negative or difficult for peoplIMG_3735e, and I know that a vast majority of the players feel the same way. In addition, it is a very simple process to request a Pokestop be removed, and it takes very little time for Niantic to do so. While I agree that this should not have been a part of the game, ultimately it is something that will be fixed moving forward and will have a minimal impact on society.

4) Promotes business and is used for marketing efforts- As mentioned previously, no Pokémon Go locations are directly on private businesses and I don’t foresee that changing in the future. That being said, there are a number of landmarks that are close enough to a shop or restaurant that they can be reached while you are there. Small businesses have taken advantage of this by creating Pokémon Go promotions in a number of ways. For example, some restaurants will give you a discount if you drop a “lure” on a Pokestop nearby, which attracts other players to the area. There are also promotions for the three different “teams” that are a part of the game. This type of advertising has only been happening at small businesses and local shops as far as I have seen, so the game is promoting mom and pop type stores rather than large chains.

Pokemon Go Promotions

Businesses aren’t the only ones benefitting from Pokémon Go- museums, libraries, and zoos all have gotten a boost in attendants since the game came out. I have a friend who works at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, VA and he has told me that the Museum has started promoting Pokémon Go and spending money to place lures on the Pokestops in their exhibits. This has dramatically increased their attendance, with a number of people coming to the museum due to the game and the museum’s marketing efforts. Some areas may not have had this level of enthusiasm, but a number of places are taking Pokémon Go in stride and it has done nothing but help increase popularity and participation.

5) Helps build friendship and social interaction- It’s surprising to me how many people I have met playing Pokémon Go around my neighborhood. I can’t say that I have met anyone I will be lasting friends with, but whenever I’m out and playing it’s almost a sure thing that I will meet someone else doing the same thing. The game’s gym system is set up so that you can attack opposing gyms as a group, so finding people on the same team as you builds a bond that you wouldn’t expect. You can be as social as you want while playing the game. It doesn’t force you to make friends, but it certainly encourages it. I have seen numerous stories online about people meeting through Pokémon Go and becoming good friends, and that is only going to continue as time goes on.

The bottom line with Pokémon Go is this- I recognize that it certainly has some issues, but the game provides a number of positives that shouldn’t be discounted. The people criticizing the game, while providing some valid arguments, need to understand that they are only looking at a very small part of the picture and can’t truly understand the benefits with the narrowed view of the game the media portrays. Pokémon Go will continue to improve and grow on its successes, and as the issues lessen the strengths will only grow. I for one am looking forward to being a part of that growth as I proudly use the app and live my childhood dream of being a Pokémon trainer.

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