NPR held its first Student Podcast Challenge this year, inviting students from grades 5-12 to submit the best podcast episode they could muster.
From 6,000 entries, NPR chose just 10 finalists. Columbus student Skyler Perry was one of them.
Then a senior at The Wellington School in Upper Arlington, Perry is now about to head off to Miami University of Ohio.
For her podcast, she interviewed her dad, Jim, asking him if he did anything for fun in his free time. First, he denies any passion in his off-work hours. Then he demurs.
"I don’t like saying it," he says.
“Do you want me to say it?” Skyler asks.
He equivocates for a few moments before finally admitting it.
“I play Pokémon Go.”
The mobile game came out in 2016, and encourages players to walk outside and catch various Pokémon using augmented reality. Pokémon Go became an international phenomenon, scoring 752 million downloads worldwide as of July 2017.
“I always thought it was really interesting that he continued his obsession with this game even after most people stopped playing it," Skyler says. "But I didn’t like that he was judged for it."
For her podcast entry, Skyler set out to understand the draw of Pokémon Go for her father and other players. One big factor is the community of people that play the game.
“I meet the most interesting people playing this game, and you know, you have this instant bond with these people in that you both share a very visible, common passion,” Jim says.
His daughter says that research by Kenyon psychology professor Patrick Ewell backs that up.
“A lot of people don’t get out of their house when they’re playing video games, and Pokémon Go was really the game to really make sure you have to leave and you have to work together in order to progress in the game,” she says.
But the game acts as more than just a connection between Jim and his fellow players—it connects him to his kids.
“If you told me when I first had you, that at some point you and your brother would lead me to my most passionate collecting hobby, and it would be virtual animals in the middle of the world, I honestly would not have believed it," Jim says in the episode.
Now through his daughter’s podcast, he’s sharing that hobby with folks across America.
“He’s freaking out,” Skyler says with a laugh. “But I told him the whole point of the podcast is to educate people about why it’s good. I understand his embarrassment but he really shouldn’t be ashamed.”
Read about the winners of the NPR Student Podcast Challenge here.