Sex + Dating

How 'Pokémon Go' Could Leave Dating Apps in the Dust

Pokémon Go
Cole Saladino/Oren Aks/Thrillist

No matter what the tech advance, it eventually falls into the hands of the sexy and the dating. Bluetooth, virtual reality, interactive video -- the same breakthrough will eventually make its way into a new sex toy, dating app, or adult website. It follows that Pokémon Go -- which has soundly outperformed Instagram, Tinder, Hinge, WhatsApp, and Snapchat since its launch last Thursday -- is already showing its potential as the latest, greatest (albeit unintended) dating app.

Augmented reality changes the landscape of sex and dating by bringing fantasy to (almost-real) life. And because Pokémon Go gets its users out of the house, the game is forcing face-to-face encounters that dating apps like Happn could only wish for. And so it's come to be that a video game is being used more than every online dating institution. Here's how the game, used for romance, has the potential to leave dating apps in the dust.

It offers instant relatability

If you're playing Pokémon Go, it's fair to assume you've got one thing in common with everyone else on the app: you dig Pokémon Go. No longer do you have to suffer through those initial 10 minutes of a blind date searching for common ground, only to find out the person you're buying dinner for hates gamers.

The game gives you all kinds of fodder for conversation

With something already in common, you and your new love interest have a TON to talk about. What are the weird quirks of the game? Which Pokémon is easiest to catch? What level did you get to? Did your server crash too?!

It's totally pressure-free

Yeah, you could play Pokémon Go in search of a date. But more likely than not, you're just going to be playing it and randomly run into people in your neighborhood who are also in the middle of a game. That rush of just happening upon an attractive someone with whom you have so much in common is something lost on this decade.

It plays off the "dating-as-sport" concept

The swiping culture of today turns partnering-up into a game of odds, well-thought-out profiles, and great opening lines. So it stands to reason that a video game that plays like a sport translates quite easily into the romantic sector. The competition related to virtual reality play combined with the potential to find a dinner date is too irresistible.

It's not just for singles

Couples are now using PokémonGo as a date-night activity. It's cheap, it's fun, and it lets you explore neighborhoods in a totally new way. There's a "pokemon saved my relationship" [sic] thread on Twitter, #pokemongodatenight on Instagram, and mounting evidence the game provides a perfect night out.

Unromantic but related side note: Pokémon Go is even helping the parent-child bond.

Even though it's brand-new, it reeks of old-school courtship

This is no alone-in-your-bedroom swiping! In spite of requiring users to stare at their phone screens, Pokémon Go is significantly more social than any dating app -- and it lets you see exactly who the person is IRL before you commit to anything.

In the most famous Pokémon Go-related dating thread so far, Reddit user UnityTreeOfSavior had this to say:

"I was about to start walking back home then some girl asked, 'hey, are you playing Pokemon Go too?' Then we just talked about Pokemon. I didn't play Pokemon past Ruby version, so my knowledge of Pokemon was a bit dated, but I think we still had a good time… But the important thing is that I am meeting her again tomorrow! I asked her out on a date and she said yes! Thank you Pokemon Go!" [sic]

A modern-day love story... that's really just two people seeing each other in person and deciding to go out. All made possible by an augmented-reality video game, in which while out hunting Pokéstops you may unwittingly stumble onto the person of your dreams.

The game is a familiar template

Our generation is primed for this to work. From beginnings with Dungeons & Dragons and World Of Warcraft all the way up to The Sims, our peers find something sexy about becoming absorbed in a contrived, separate universe. Nowadays, we're perfectly comfortable sliding between the virtual and the literal -- especially if it's going to get us some action.

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Nicole Caldwell is Thrillist's Sex & Dating Editor, and is a little bit terrified of augmented reality's potential.