It’s all go with Pokemon!

A non-players look in

I have never played Pokemon in any of its forms, well besides one time when an eight-year-old first introduced me to the cards and I suspect invented the rules as he went along so that he could defeat me in every engagement that we had.   That was my first introduction to the game and while it was not for me, a lot of things do not interest me, this does not in any way increase or decrease these things on any arbitrary awesome scale.  Unlike many other people who for whatever reason, assume that if they do not like something, or understand it, then it must by default suck and be evil.

Pokemon Go however seems to have introduced non Pokemoners to the world of Pikachu, this is great.  Or is it?   It seems that since the game first burst onto most mobile devices the game has seen its many downloads go hand in hand with its many criticisms.   It seems that the game has attracted a handful of categories of people.

First of all, you have, as is the case with any trend, those who will hate it for the sake of being contrary to what Is popular.  Whether young or old they will with the serpic disregard of an uppity hipster despise it because it is popular, not a true game, a corporate cash grab, a government mind dumbing app or all of the above to those who simply do not understand how the game or games this side of the Atari 2600 work.   That is fine, you will get this with every popular thing ever to be invented, but especially a trend that has people enmasse running from monument to monument or gathering in large numbers come rain or shine while they look so obsessively into their mobile phones seeking out colourful little critters.

Found among those who hate this game are those who have instincts and urges to control others, these elitists tend to occupy the lofty heights of academia, governance, religion or social commentary.  Here you will find a celebratory glee when a child falls over a cliff because they were playing the game, a mother walks in front of a car or an airliner falls from the skies because the pilot was playing.  Each incident of another’s suffering, as is often the case for these controllers, is used as an example to surrender some freedom to them so that they may protect us all from our selves.  It is also with a sadistic arrogance that many of those sitting atop of social elitism seem to smugly declare “I told you so”.  It does not matter what the trend is whether it is the Macarena, marbles or planking these controllers will find a way to rain on everyone’s fun and insert their ideology into the mix.  They will somehow use one absolutely horrible incident as an example of every player and every moment that the game is played so as to depict it as a public safety menace, an ISIS recruiting device or a gateway drug into marijuana injection while surfing the dark web for cannibalism.

Outside of its detractors you seem to have those that are drawn to it in a somewhat casual manner, they partake because a friend or loved one does, or they simply are curious to have a try.  No doubt some of these casual goers will drop of in numbers and admit that the game is nothing more than another cool thing that we can do with modern technology, namely our phones.   Then you have those hard core Pokemoners, the brick who will remain true to the game despite its inevitable waning in popularity.  Just as Tetris still has its hardcore advocates, so shall Pokémon, these people will eventually break off into the many niche groups that such games and interests have.  Eventually when Pokémon Go version 3.9 is out you will have the purists that use their old phones and dated operating systems so that they can play the real and original version while those enjoying the modern and enhanced 3.9 are merely muppets playing a graphic orientated shell of a formerly great game, you know the rest.

Then perhaps you have two other groups of sorts, those who have no idea what gaming of this nature is, what Pokémon is or no doubt even, what Tetris was.  They will remain technological trend free and will continues to enjoy their lives as they always shall, but they will find running mobs of people hurrying to a random place repeatedly to strike them as unusual and odd, within this group you will have those ardent Facebook only users as though Facebook is the ultimate end when it comes social media out there and all that they could ever need, and because of such a perspective they are assured in their hip knowledge on modern software, Pokémon Go, isn’t that the government spying app that I saw a meme about on my feed?.  And then you have people like me, those who are not into it but are intrigued by it or who are in some ways enablers of those players that are.  You take them for drives so that they may hunt or go on walks with them so that they do not seem like a geeky loner, or so that you can pretend that you are both normal, pre Go people, you know when people would go for walks near the beach not to hunt cartoon monsters.   I have participated as an anthropologist on several Pokémon hunts, as several goers make their way across the digital expanse via their battery drained phones I am walking around looking at the flesh and blood world admiring how demographic neutral this game is, while many others around me see the world through their phones.

It is an interesting perspective watching father and son brave the cold winters drizzle so that they both can dash across a park catching Pokémon’s, or a gathering of near thirty strangers standing in one corner all looking into their device, while sharing their various adventures and anecdotes, the tales about the one that got away being as prevalent as the boastful run through of what Pokémon’s one has trapped inside of their phone.  Tourists and locals alike visiting destinations of banal gernicness to the more exotic monuments of regional glory all so that they may catch something other than a cold.  Local businesses benefiting from those in need of a wi fi or battery charger plug in gladly buying hot drinks or cool ales, or for those places near a Pokémon hot spot let the real candy’s fall into the till as players sit in comfort while tapping and sliding on their phones as another local business gets by for another night.

So while this game has tremendous growth, the concept alone is interesting.  For me the idea of merging a google glass optical system too look through so that while you are going about your day to day a friend or friends can also engage you in a sort of game play where virtual avatars of them is interlaced over the real world that is around you, strikes me as being interestingly fun. And one step closer thanks to games like Go.   We have to settle for cartoon monsters being hit by mini red and white death stars for now.  Within the game itself, despite its apparent buggy nature it has no doubt wider room to expand.  I have no idea as I have never played it and barely looked into it.  I am more interested in the concept and the culture that is emerging because of it.

The only real faults I have with this game, and the nature of its play is the inattention that some have in regards to the real world.  The scary stories about people running into traffic or zombie like trances being invoked because of the satanic nature of the game are widespread, but beyond this fear mongering generic media socio-political self-importance, I fear that some people who easily succumb to compulsive conduct (whatever that is) forget that they have other objectives to meet during the day.   For example, let me give you some anecdotes that I have observed where the games introduction has created some mild though interesting points of near mishaps.

A friend of mine was telling me about how he was running and cursing while looking into his phone so that he could reach a local playground in order to catch a soon to be disappearing Pokémon.  He was oblivious to the fact that a family was playing on the said playground and the parents were growing concerned as this 100kg bearded beast of a man ran towards them with his mobile phone pointing in their general direction, as their children played.  Another instance was far more less obvious, a young man was walking down a dark lane one evening, alone and isolated, he was completely unaware that I was approaching him.  If a vulgar brute with the intention of mugging people was nearby it would have been easy pickings.  Most were unaware of what anyone else looked like, besides the digital avatars on their phones, and they would never have seen the attacks come.  Then off course there is the more obvious tripping over things or bumping into people, to running down your phone so that you cannot use them it in an emergency.  These for me are teething problems, as soon as people evolve and adapt with such conduct they will better find what works for them.  Not everyone Pokémon’s the same and not every one should be condemned because a very minor few can’t hold down their Go well. I have seen the sophisticated and classier goers who keep their phone in their pockets, while a headphone remains in their ear so as to announce when a Pokémon is nearby.

So as despotic regimes threaten to cut hands from the players, social scientists grapple with a grand theory of the game and its play, legislators figure a way to make money out of punishing the players, revenue raisers seek to enforce arrogant laws, religious leaders jealously blame the devil and hipsters whine about how it’s not even a game, Pokémon and its future inceptions is here to stay, and it will evolve.  Despite its detractors and its addicted players, it will change things.  For me, I have no interest in playing it.  I do however have an interest in seeing people of all races, languages and cultures coming together and interacting however mildly it may be.  It just shows that despite the best intentions of the worse elements of humanity a simple download of a piece of software can do what humans always desired to do, get outside, be around other people, and jointly participate in the catching of a snorlax.

Kym Robinson, July 2016