Pokémon Go (stylized Pokémon GO) is a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality game developed and published by Niantic for iOS andAndroid 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
Pokestock: a term coined by Pillow Talking combining Pokemon Go game with Woodstock
By Stephanie C. Lyons Keeley and Wayne J. Keeley
So as many who follow our Pillow Talking blog know, we recently were out PokéDriving with several young members of or blended family and stumbled across an area where there were four Pokémon lure modules established to attract the little virtual critters (see our take on Pokemon Go). The setting was an open area near the local war memorial, park, and several ball fields. When we neared it, the four kids who were with us jumped out of the car to join in the merriment – then it was like pulling teeth to get them to leave. There must have been well over a hundred PokéHunters playing in the darkness, the lights on their smartphones serving as beacons to their positions. Lawn chairs, blankets, and even tents were set up and it looked as though it was going to be an all-night affair for some (not us).
So partly out of curiosity and partly out of our children’s desire to go back, we returned a few days later to the scene of the crime – or in this case the scene of the Pokémon lure madness. Sure enough, there again was a massive crowd in the same exact spot. It was around 6 p.m. Lawn chairs and blankets dotted the area. People were on foot and roaming about. Others sat in their cars at the curb. Some had food; some were blasting music; many were smoking and vaping (much to one of our daughter’s dismay, cough, cough). We even saw one of our kids’ high school English teachers.
And in the light of day, we were able to ascertain their constant power source – hundred-foot extension cords running from exterior outlets at the nearby buildings all the way to the encampment.
The vast majority of Pokémon hunters were college age. Both being professors (Stephanie teaches psychology and Wayne teaches communications) it is never unusual to come across students when we’re out and about and this was no exception. There was former student Barry in a chair under a tent, a coffee can by his feet filled with cigarette butts. He said he’d found the area a few weeks earlier and was there regularly, sometimes staying all night and then heading out for breakfast in the morning. He reported he’d caught 3,000 Pokémon and about 140 of the total of 151 different types of creatures. He said it was “something to do in the summer.”
Since we both also teach about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it was interesting to note that this impromptu camp had the basics covered. As noted, they had electricity. Cigarettes, food and drinks (soft), and fresh air were plentiful. At one point we overheard a discussion when someone had to go to the bathroom and another directed them to nearby porta potties down the road. Someone else elected to hoof it to a nearby CVS to use their facilities. (When they told her in the store that the bathrooms were only for employees, she decided to tell them she was going to throw up any second, to which they generously directed her to the off-limits restroom.)
What was most interesting, however, was the sociological and psychological elements of the Woodstock-ish phenomenon that was taking place before our eyes. Here was a crowd of people, more like a conglomeration of small groups, coming together for a common purpose – to hunt Pokémon. It was, as Barry had said, “something to do.” In our technological-electronic-virtual society where many become nearly recluses, shut-ins, and bleary-eyed from only the light of their video game screens in darkened basements, it has become a way to get out and be with others in the flesh – a need which the single bars of another era had satisfied. It is a way to meet face-to-face with friends, neighbors, or strangers and share stories and idle conversation. Music was playing everywhere, people brought along their puppies, and there was a real feeling of camaraderie. WE ARE POKÉMON PLAYERS, WE ARE ONE was the silent chant on everyone’s lips (a dramatic exaggeration, but you get the picture).
Yes, there were battles. When one of our children (he’s 13) meandered away to take over a gym, a much older interloper followed him and immediately took it back. Rude, but all is fair in love and war…and Pokémon.
One only can ask, where will all of this PokéMania lead? Is Pokémon Go a new cultural touchstone? Only time will tell. But it is a Brave New PokéWorld for all of us.