I’ve been watching posts and stories about Pokemon Go with amusement. While I haven’t engaged in the trend, as of yet, I certainly know many who are excited about this new explosion. Last week, I read people’s posts wondering why their typically indoorsy children were suddenly excited about venturing outside for long walks. My favorite post compared those walking around staring at their phones to zombies from The Walking Dead. My 9 year old son heard about the app at his summer daycare and was initially a skeptic. He made jokes about “pale gamers” wandering around looking for fluffy bunnies and other strange electronic creatures. While leaving a doctor’s appointment, he began ranting about gamers being careless as they walked around with their eyes glued to their phone screens. During this rant, he kept his eyes glued to a soccer video on YouTube and walked into a wall, although he now denies this ever happened. As I predicted, his joking and criticism began to morph into a deeper curiosity about Pokemon Go and he ultimately spent a couple hours trying to find whatever it is these people are trying to find while on a walk with our resident game guru, my brother.
I doubt I’ll download the app but not because I’m opposed to the idea. I won’t download it for two reasons, (1) my phone needs to be taken to Oz and repaired so it will allow me to download new apps, and (2) because I don’t need another distraction from my (or Logan’s) daily life. While I don’t anticipate joining in the Pokemon Go revolution, I am enjoying the rise in popularity. I, personally, enjoy games and opportunities to explore new places and meet new people. I love the idea that within our communities there are relics and adventures waiting to be discovered and often overlooked by those not paying close enough attention. Additionally, don’t we all want to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves? This is exactly why I have enjoyed geocaching, letterboxing, and book crossing at different points in my life and perhaps why people are drawn to stories like the ones in The DaVinci Code and the National Treasure movies.
Note: If you are already familiar with geocaching, letterboxing, and book crossing, please skip to the next paragraph. If not, read on for a description of these nerdy hobbies. Geocaching involved the use of GPS coordinates posted on a website (geocaching.com) to find hidden objects or logs. Many state parks and national parks have geocaches available for hunters. Letterboxing (atlasquest.com or letterboxing.org) is similar to geocaching but adds personalized rubber stamps, often handmade. When finding a letterbox, one leaves their stamped imprint on the letterbox log and also uses the provided stamp, often created to coordinate with the box theme, in their own logbook. Book crossing involves leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise. The website, bookcrossing.com, provides the opportunity to log where the book was found and where it was left for readers to follow the book’s journey as well as find other books that have been left.
Perhaps Pokemon Go has tapped into our desire be distracted from the heartbreaking violence and hateful actions occurring around the world. My brain and heart have grown weary of screaming, shooting, dying, and an inability to move towards solutions. I can’t help but believe that the younger Pokemon Go players have tuned out the day’s hate-filled rhetoric and purposely tuned into the light-hearted distraction. What might look like generational apathy, I wonder, could more likely be political weariness. For this reason, I have resisted reading the often bogus posts about the app luring children towards harm and giving rise to crime. Surely we can just enjoy something at face value. Surely we can rememember how to have fun.
Time will tell how long the Pokemon Go phenomenon will last. Surely some people will grow weary of the trend and move onto the next big thing while others will continue wandering around in exploration of new creatures.
Recently, when going to visit my grandmother at her retirement community, I could not find a parking spot. I was forced to park across the street and walk a greater distance than I preferred. The parking spots were all occupied by people meeting for a regular bridge club gathering. I have no idea how to play bridge and don’t know anyone in my age group that is a part of a bridge club. This led me to daydream about retirement home social events and activities for my generation. Will retirement villages boast about their “Aladdin’s Castle” game room or have Madden and Halo tournaments on the schedule? Perhaps there will be Hamilton sing-a-longs and rap battle nights. I’m sure I will be willing and eager to participate in anything that connects me to others of my generation and my community.
I wonder if the retirement homes my children enter will offer Pokemon Go nights. Can you imagine elderly players wandering around with a cane in one hand and their phone in the other while searching for a horned snake thing? At least, even with their eyes down, they’d be engaged in an activity around others rather than isolating, rather than fighting. A long life, a distraction from hate, a fulfilling hobby, and being apart of something bigger than one’s self…what more can we ask for?