The smartphone app game Pokemon GO has taken the world by storm this Summer, with some people citing it as the next worst thing for crime. Players have been reportedly shot at, driven into lakes, walked over cliffs, and even accidentally crossed borders into another country to catch a long sought after Pokemon.
But Autism parents are one group of parents who are citing Pokemon GO as the next best thing when it comes to video games – it's getting their kids outside. But, the Pokemon phenomenon story goes even deeper than that. One reason Pokemon GO might be such a hit with kids on the autism spectrum could rest in the fact that the Pokemon creator, has autism.
It's news that has a lot of autism parents clapping world wide, as their kids get social, finally, and engage in an activity that their kids can relate to. And, it doesn't hurt for them to know that one of the world's most renowned video game creators is a millionaire, and also has autism.
And a millionaire he definitely is! The original Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri launched the series in 1996. Pokemon GO seems to many as an overnight success, but it wasn't. CEO of Pokemon GO, John Hanke told Time Magazine, it only seems like an overnight sensation, Pokemon GO is a 20-year project.
And it seems to have paid off. NBC News reports that the revenue from Pokemon GO toppled the $250 million mark, and is "on course" to reach over $1 billion world wide. In order to play the game, the app needs to be downloaded onto a smart phone or tablet. To advance, some special tokens or items can be purchased in the app.
While the app and game itself are free, these special tokens are not. NBC News reports a You Gov poll says that approximately 1 in 5 Pokemon GO users are spending money on the game, to the tune of $268 million dollars in the first five weeks of the game.
That's news that will make the CEO happy for a very long time. It doesn't appear that the Pokemon GO trend is going to go anywhere but up, any time soon. It's not just making its creators happy, either.
As the game has captured the world by a storm, parents of autism are finding the game to be a bit of a miracle in itself. Lenore Koppleman, mom of 6-year-old Ralphie, recently told the Today Show that since the launch of this game, her autism son laughs more, is happier, and expresses more confidence.
She called it a "miracle transformation." All of these things are things that many autism moms only dream of. Lenore says that within one week of usage, she and her husband saw incredible changes in their child on the spectrum.
CNN spoke with a Dr. James McPartland, of the Yale Developmental Disabilities Clinic on the Pokemon GO and autism connection. He told CNN the success of the game with kids on the spectrum is due to the concrete structure of the game, and that it is consistent, and also, gets them in the social game.
He also told CNN that kids on the autism spectrum have an eidetic memory that can not be matched with those off the spectrum. And, when they go out into the real world, they now have an "in" or a social hook with the social circles that they didn't have before. It's a game changer. Literally.
So it should be no surprise to anybody that the creator of Pokemon, not the app Pokemon GO, but the original Pokemon, has a form of autism known as Asperger's. This may be just another reason why children on the autism spectrum relate to this game, and Pokemon in general, so well. The game, and Pokemon, involve a set of concrete characters with concrete functions.
To many parents, the Pokemon character set sounds like a different language. But somehow, autism kids are able to remember these names like Pikachu, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur, and all of their functions and roles, as easy as it is for them to breathe.
And why not? The autism connection with Pokemon goes back to 1996, when Satoshi Tajiri of Japan wanted to do something practical with his love for bugs, according to Aspergers Net. He was a reported avid video game player in high school, long before the first smartphone was even invented.
He began drawing the Pokemon characters, and a video game was born. When Pokemon was first launched, it sold over 200 million copies, and is still selling for Nintendo DS, 2DS, and 3DS today. The only video game franchise that has toppled that sales mark is Super Mario.
Aspergers Net describes the average brain as processing up to 30 cycles of brain activity a second. For people on the spectrum, that rate can be as fast as 250,000 waves per second. This is why they are often referred to as geniuses, with high energy levels.
Lenore Koppelman is not the only happy autism mom. Multiple stories have come out where kids on the spectrum seem to really "come alive" playing this game. The BBC chronicled a UK teenager who didn't go outside for 5 years, until Pokemon GO. Adam's incredible story can be seen right here.
The original Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri is definitely on the autism scale of genius, reportedly working up to 24 hours straight sometimes. He is very quiet about his Asperger's diagnosis, but as a millionaire who has inspired so many, he's definitely not ashamed of it.
Tajiri is originally from Japan, and studied at the Tokyo National College of Technology. It was there where he launched his own magazine about gaming trends.
Who knew that he was about to become one? Not only did he educate others on trends, he also created some of his own. It was Tajiri who invented the notion of using cables to connect hand held games so that players could play with each other, rather than against one another.
Since then, the latest Pokemon phenomenon is of course, Pokemon GO. While it does seem to have its share of irresponsible users landing in different countries or getting shot at, autism moms are citing Pokemon GO as the next best thing in video gaming, and an awesome social hook for their kids.
Do you play Pokemon GO? Do you know someone with autism that does? We'd love to hear your stories! What's the craziest thing you've done for Pokemon GO?
[Photo by Associated Press/AP Images]