We were downtown tonight for dinner, and it was as if 85% of the people walking around had been taken over by something. Nearly everyone was glued to their devices. People crossed the street and wandered down sidewalks in a trancelike state. Did everyone just get the text of a lifetime, all at once?
No. They all downloaded Pokémon Go, the latest app craze taking America by storm. If you haven’t succumbed to peer pressure and let it take over your phone just yet, you might wander around feeling like you’ve missed something. You probably have. There could be a Pokémon character lurking within ten feet of you, and you’d never even know it. Can you imagine?!
Pokémon Go released Thursday, so it’s had five days to get into the hands of millions of people. Looking around tonight, I’m thinking it’s the most viral thing to hit the streets…possibly ever. Our five year old, Henry, who knows nothing about the game at all (and to be clear, I know only a fraction more after doing a little digging tonight), kept shouting, “There’s one right there!” and pointing at people playing the game. I’m sure he freaked out multiple players, who all started scrambling around looking for the coveted Pokémon Henry was after. Nothing to see here, folks. We’re just hunting Pokémon Go players and trying to understand what on earth is happening. Carry on.
But really, it’s crazy. Not only from a viral, “there’s never been anything quite like this” kind of perspective, but for the fact that humans everywhere are interacting, but not interacting. They are wandering around getting exercise, but also appear to be totally unaware of their surroundings. Not to mention the fact that I witnessed more than one parent (or set of parents) tonight, completely ignoring their children while they were busy playing the game.
I don’t know what to say.
On our way home, we drove past one of my favorite parks. It was FULL of people. Beautiful, right? It’s a gorgeous summer night, and everyone should be out at the park living it up. And they were, in a way. Except that when we parked and I got out of the car to take a look around, my suspicions proved true. I could only spot two people in the entire park who were just there to be at the park. Everyone else was playing Pokémon Go. I wandered around capturing them all on video for a few minutes, and no one ever even noticed I was there.
I sound a little cynical in the video, but I’ve posted it below in case you’re curious about the craze yourself. I’m all for getting outside, exercising, group activity, strategy, etc., but I have a harder time with this one. It just feels like it got out of control so fast. A few days ago, we were all simply strolling through the park for strolling’s sake.
After the kids went to bed tonight, I did a minimal amount of research to have even the slightest clue of what the Pokémon Go craze is all about. I found a few helpful articles, including the ones I’ve linked below.
–This USA Today article covers a good bit about the game, including reasons why it “might be a little dangerous.” (See no.5)
-The Economist details a bit about the overlap between real and virtual worlds here.
-Vox Explainers has a good synopsis of the game and its widespread impact here. I found this quote particularly telling:
“The problem: When people get competitive, they can get aggressive. And there have been some reports of people getting into real-life arguments over the game. This is very tricky ground for future augmented reality game developers to tread, because they definitely don’t want real-world violence attached to their products.
Pokémon Go has already revealed some issues, too. Not only did four robbery suspects allegedly set up lure beacons on PokéStops to attract victims, but there are reports of injuries due to the game, and police have had to warn players about going into places they’re not supposed to. Chances are most players will be responsible and won’t run into these issues, but these are notable risks with directly attaching a video game to the real world.” –German Lopez
It isn’t that I can’t get the concept of this incredible fad, but honestly, I’m not sure I want to. I don’t need one more reason to have my phone in front of me. I don’t need to be searchable at all hours of the day. And, more than anything, I don’t need another distraction from the people and places that matter the most to me.
I’m sorry, Pokémon, but with all due respect, I didn’t love you in the 90’s and I can’t love you now. Just no.
I’d love to know your thoughts on the game and whether you’re playing it and why. What do you see as the benefits? Negatives? And have you wandered anywhere lately and felt like you were the only one NOT looking at your phone? Or is it just me and the pregnancy hormones talking on this one?