“Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings,” warns the opening screen on Pokémon Go. And with good reason. Some people are so engrossed in the game they’ve fallen into ditches, walked off cliffs and been lured into armed robberies – and, sure, there have been moments when I’ve nearly stepped into traffic trying to catch a Magnemite. You have to be careful.
But in another sense, Pokemon has made me far more aware of my surroundings, showing me things I hadn’t noticed in months, even years, of walking the same streets and going to the same places.
Turns out that park I go to for lunch every day is an old school grounds – and that’s why the hotel that just opened up next to it is called St Paul’s, it’s named after the school.
I’ve drunk at the Swan pub plenty of times – it’s got a really nice gin palace vibe. But I never bothered to look up, so I never saw that gorgeous old mural right at the top of the building.
Of course, I knew there were loads of pubs in London but I never realised quite how many churches there were, squeezed in between offices and shops or in buildings that look more like NHS clinics.
Pokémon Go is like a free walking tour of London, or wherever you happen to be.
Forget Lonely Planet or Rough Guide – next time I visit a new city I’m letting Pokémon Go be my guide.