Make fun of its enthusiasts all you want, but Pokémon Go has done some good for the world. It's getting people moving, helping restaurants say in business, and even helping people get dates. This could be the best effect yet, though: The game is helping people with social difficulties go out in public and interact with other players.
Stephanie Barnhill, the mother of a 12-year-old boy with Asperger's, told CNN that the game has encouraged him to leave the house and socialize, which he's normally scared to do.
"He's not a go-outside-and-play kind of kid," she said. "But this game has enabled him to want to reach out to people and strike up conversations about creatures that they've caught."
Lenore Koppelman, whose son has been diagnosed with autism and the verbal disorder hyperlexia, says that when other kids play the game with him, they don't pay attention to his behaviors like they normally do. "He is finally finding himself in the middle of groups of kids he doesn't even know, being welcome to play with them," she said.
Dr. James McPartland, director of Yale's Developmental Disabilities Clinic in the Child Study Center, told CNN that the game is well-suited for kids on the autism spectrum, since its cast of characters has memorizable facts and that caters to the way their minds work. School psychologist Dr. Peter Faustino said the game provides a "social hook" — a conversation topic to connect with others that he often advises autistic children to look for.
Pokémon Go has definitely changed the world, for better or for worse. And we're venturing a guess that overall, it's for better.