Pokémon Go (stylized Pokémon GO) is a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality game developed and published by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. It was initially released in selected countries in July 2016. In the game, players use the smart device’s GPS and camera to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. The game supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items. — Wikipedia
“It’s not just a game anymore.” – Aidan Schultz
Recently this PokéMom set out with some of the brood (of seven) for a PokéDrive as my son calls it (if I’m being totally honest, in this particular instance the hubs drove). This has become a very common occurrence of late. Sometimes, like for this one, these PokéDrives are dedicated outings with their sole purpose just to hunt for the critters; other times they are short deviations and pit stops off the main drag while running errands or en route to a specific location unrelated to PokéAnything; and still other times they are simply opportunities for the young’uns to nab some Pokémon [on the] Go, no detours, side roads, parking lots, or slow-downs in the middle of the street – I tell ‘em, just catch what you can while Mom does what she has to (come on Child A or B or C or even D, won’t there be Pokémon at the grocery store or in Macy’s women’s department fitting room?). But no matter what, I can say that whenever these drives happen, I’m lost. Completely lost. And I don’t mean lost in the sense that I don’t know where I am – because I do know at least that. And as a matter of fact, I’m learning so much more than I ever knew about our fine city, including just how many churches there are (I’d say God only knows why churches are prime locations for PokéStops, but my guess is He really does). Where I am lost is in the language of Pokémon Go – that I can tell you.
Battles. Gyms. Eggs. Incubators. Incense. Level Ups. Evolution. Combat Points. Experience Points. Hit Points. Candy. Teams (Instinct, Mystic, Valor). Fainting. Revives. Max Revives. Razz Berries. Lure Modules. Poké Balls. Potions. Stardust. Water-type. Fire-type. Grass-type. Fighting-type. Ice-type. Poison-type…Magikarp. Eevee. Clefairy. Psyduck. Geodude. Mankey. Jigglypuff. Lickitung. Horsea. Bulbasaur. Charmander. Squirtle. Caterpie. Snorlax. Pidgey. Rattata. Poliwag. Pikachu!
Now my tongue is twisted and I’m utterly exhausted…and I’ve only just touched upon the terminology…I need a glossary. Or to wear my earbuds while driving. Or…And a glass of wine (after I get home).
But this most recent adventure was of an entirely different kind, and it was a BIG one. For weeks now, several of my children have been begging me (read: haranguing) to take them to Main Street – a benign, oomph-less Main Street U.S.A. which hasn’t seen much action since the bygone days of the Woolworth counter and Howland’s department store. Main Street, which at one time was the commercial hub of our city before the big, bad mall came in and stole its thunder in the late ’80s. But guess what? Our little Main Street has more PokéStuff than the mall, so go figure. Now tonight wasn’t the first time we piled some of the bunch into the massive 9-seater van or my Honda Pilot and set out on the mile-ish long jaunt; however, it was the most fruitful. (Pun intended? Yeah, I heard a lot about Razz Berries.) But we had a limited time – 45 minutes before we had to pick up my daughter from her job at the mall (egad – I think I’ve heard them say there’s only one Pokéstop and one gym there). So we drove. Slowed. Stopped. Drove. Slowed. Stopped. (And probably both annoyed other drivers as well as possibly broke some driving laws.) Curiously all the while, we saw people out in hordes, on foot, looking a lot like the walkers (zombies) from The Walking Dead – those glazed eyes, that eerily similar stooped posture – but instead of being led by what remained of their lower brain stem (which drives them to find human flesh to feed upon), these walkers held their phones out in front of them and were being led by Pokémon Go’s use of their cell’s GPS, camera, and clock, all in search of Pokémon. Everywhere we looked, there were people ambling about – alone, in pairs, in groups…
And so following our noses (or some Pokémon directive) finally we found ourselves in our War Memorial and park at the very end of Main Street. We’d never ventured that far – and fighting the traffic coming out of the park initially felt as if we’d made a bad move. But we kept driving…and the volume of the voices in the car kept rising…and the numbers of walkers on the sidewalks kept increasing…until…it culminated in a lawn chair-riddled, blanket-strewn throng…of what? Wait! There was no big screen for an outdoor movie, no baseball team playing nearby, no picnic tent or other formal event…just glimmers of light from…hundreds of cell phones! There were dozens upon dozens of people playing Pokémon! If there was a P.K.E. meter for Pokémon like they used in Ghostbusters to detect psychokinetic energy (ghosts), I’m 100% certain it would have been going off so feverishly it would have spontaneously combusted.
Now initially we weren’t aware of the extreme importance of what was taking place. In fact, the hubs didn’t even believe me when I said the mob had to have been playing Pokémon. When we pulled over to the curb and the four kidlets who were with us leapt out of the van (one of whom was shoeless) and took off in search of Pokémon, we sat and waited. In the growing darkness of night, we couldn’t even see where they went. Then all of a sudden my 13-year-old Aidan came running back, informing me that there were four Lure Modules and we had to stay! That there were droves of people doing the same thing, and couldn’t I come with them and Wayne go get his sister? Couldn’t we get chairs and blankets and camp out – all night? I mean, this was BIG! BIG! BIG!
Okay, what? I mean really, WHAT? What the hell is a lure module and why is everyone doing this – and why are they doing it to ME?!?! Next thing I know, Wayne darts out of the car after him to go confirm that this frenzy is actually taking place. Armed with his iPhone camera and ready to snap up pics of all of the Pokéfied zombies, I’m now left alone in the van with no phone should someone be coming for my flesh to feed (okay, I’m admittedly melodramatic now, but I think I didn’t mention that my 11-year-old doesn’t have his own phone, so he uses mine on these excursions). I couldn’t even play Word Streak or scroll through my Facebook feed while sitting there alone, hanging out the window, like an idiot.
But I’m a mean PokéMom. It was after nine o’clock now and my daughter was calling on everyone’s phones trying to reach me. Her shift was over and she was hungry. We had to go.
Couldn’t we come back? There’s actually a blanket in the car for you, Mom! (Yes, Mom’s always cold.) We could go get snacks, stay for a few hours. I mean, who cares about a couple zillion mosquitos flocking to the light of all those cell phones?
I stuck to my guns. I gritted my teeth. I ignored all of the begging (which was getting louder than the PokéChatter we’d heard on the way). We picked up my daughter. We picked up pizza. We went home. And I got my phone back (which of course needed to be charged because those damn Pokés use up a lot of battery life). Thank God there’s no Pokémon in my house or I’d likely throttle their virtual throats. I played some Word Streak. I checked my email and my Facebook. I took a few deep breaths.
I can’t complain too much. My kids are together, enjoying one another and the competition of the hunt — amazing that all seven of them, ages 11 through nearly 20 can enjoy a single activity. They are outside, I know where they are (except for a few moments that night when they disappeared into the darkness), and they’re even learning a new language, right? (NOT.)
So here we are and today’s another day…I know what’s going to be in store. I’ve always been a sucker for my kids. Okay, Pokémon, here we GO…watch out for this gang! I know at least one of them is already up to Level 14 and I’m told that’s pretty good…only what, 26 more to go? Can Pokémon pay for my gas?
Living through pop culture fads and trends can be any number of things including fun, inspiring, time-wasting, distracting, and even, at times, dangerous. I think about some of the ones there have been in my lifetime – Beatlemania, the Fonz, Archie Bunker, GI Joe, James Bond, Thursday Night Must-See TV with Friends and Seinfeld, and on and on.
So when the newest one reared its head — I mean that literally as well as figuratively — Pokémon Go – I didn’t think too much about it. After all, it’s a game. You don’t win anything. You don’t get anything from playing it other than maybe some self-satisfaction. So big deal. It will be here and gone in a heartbeat.
Or so I thought.
But there I was, driving around at nine o’clock at night hunting Pokémon with my wife and four of our seven children. We passed a local baseball game in progress, but the stands were empty. There was, however, an incredible crowd adjacent to it. There had to be a couple of hundred people. They were sitting in lawn chairs and laying on blankets. There were dogs and picnic baskets. One might think they were at a concert, but there were all these lights emanating from their cell phones. But, alas, it wasn’t the baseball game or a concert. It was a group that had gathered together to catch Pokémon creatures. Apparently a couple of people had set up lure modules to attract Pokémon. Before you knew it, the crowd grew into a hundred or more.
Our kids were ecstatic. We sat in our van with the air conditioning running (gas be damned) while the kids did their thing. And they didn’t want to come home. They wanted to stay all night. I kid you not.
Am I a dinosaur. Am I old school? As a former gambler, what is the payoff out of collecting virtual Pokémon creatures? I don’t get it. I would say it’s a generational thing, but the bulk of the people I saw that night were adults and I dare say many were of grandparent age. So what is the rub?
I’ve asked a number of people of varying ages. My kids say it’s a competitive thing: You just want to catch as many as you can, more than anybody else. Others who are a bit older harken it back to collecting things – baseball cards, butterflies, rocks. Still, those collectible things were tangible in nature. They were real, three-dimensional hard objects. Then again, we live in a virtual age where nothing is real. I am on Spotify listening to songs I don’t own. All of my phone numbers and contacts are in virtual databases and can be swept away with a touch of a button. I don’t even remember my phone number to my landline. (Do I even have a landline anymore?)
Yes, there are stories about people getting into accidents and falling off of cliffs, etc. But then again, stupid is as stupid does. As a work colleague reminded me, countless accidents were the result of people taking selfies in strange and dangerous places including a person who tried to take a picture with a wild animal. They were mauled to death, but did get the picture.
There are the positive stories of kids in children’s hospitals getting up and around searching for the GPS-bred creatures. It’s nice to see our kids out in the fresh air for a change, rather than glued to an indoor screen.
And then, of course, there is the bonding issue. Pokémon hunting is something that can be shared with your children even if you don’t play the game yourself. There are worse things in life then being a chauffeur to your kids during Pokémon hunts. At least you know where your kids are.
How long will this craze last? Only time will tell. I firmly believe, however, that GPS-based games are here to stay. Whether Pokémon will survive the test of time is another question.
I remember when Sean Connery was doing the James Bond films and he kept making the hair stylist thin out the toupee he had to wear. He is reported as saying, “Immortality is no one’s. It’s not mine. It’s not yours. It’s not James Bond’s.” Of course, more than a half century later, James Bond is still as vibrant and as strong as ever. So go figure.
Oh, no, have to run. My kids just found a new Pokémon stop and Charmanders and Tauroses may be there.