As you may or may not have heard, a new Pokémon game was just released, and it’s driving the kids wild. Except, it’s not just the kids… it’s everyone.
I never played the old (or new) Pokémon games… they either came out for systems I didn’t own (Game Boy) or during a time when I’d stopped playing games. In all fairness, Pokémon never really piqued my interest much, anyways. I never felt the insatiable need to catch ’em all, as the tagline went. Through Super Smash Bros. and general awareness of pop culture, however, I am certainly not unfamiliar with the game concept or its characters. So, flash forward from my disinterested youth to today and the question arises as to why I’m now bothering to suddenly write about a Pokémon game.
Well, because I’m part of the aforementioned “everyone” who is hooked on Pokémon GO!
I began hearing about this game pretty immediately at the tail end of last week, after its July 6th release, and by Friday afternoon I decided to check it out. The unique concept is really what snagged my attention. The Pokémon games revolve around a simple premise: catch monsters out in the wild, grow them into bigger monsters, and train them to battle one another. Pokémon GO works in the same way — the fantastic difference being that this time the player has to run around in the real world to catch the little beasties! That’s right. Using your phone’s GPS location, the game uses the real world map of buildings and roads to draw the in-game map the player’s character runs around in — and that character doesn’t move unless the player’s phone does. The game actually forces the player to move around, and outside of their house, to play… and that’s pretty novel. There’s more to it, of course, in terms of gameplay specifics, but I’m not here to review the game.
I’m here to talk about how darn fun the madcap collective experience has been!
I started the game up just at the tail-end of my workday on Friday, and captured my starter Pokémon right next to my car as I left to start my weekend:
I drove straight to the Irvine Spectrum to meet a friend for dinner, and while he and I sat at our table in Ruby’s outdoor patio, I noticed two guys (with an extra, excited onlooker) holding their phones up towards us. At first I made a joke that they must really like how my friend and I looked, then I realized… they were hunting the Pokémon! I knowingly nodded at one of the guys and said, “Pokémon?” to which he returned a sheepish nod of acknowledgement. Oh, and did I forget to mention that this group consisted of two guys in their mid-20’s wearing athletic gear and a 50-year-old Middle Eastern man?
Like I said… it’s everyone!
All over the Spectrum that night I saw young folks dashing around, eyeing their phones for rogue Pokémon that might pop up. I didn’t join in the madness then, and Saturday I was busy enjoying real life with Great Company (the ice-skating pro!), so it wasn’t until last night that I finally started playing for reals. My pal KB came by, after a Sunday down in San Diego, and I ended up joining her for an impromptu Pokémon hunt around town. We headed down to the beach, and it was absolutely hilarious to see so many others out and about doing the same thing we were. That’s what this game is doing… creating this mass interest in joining together, outdoors and usually on foot, for a common purpose. Old, young, every skin-color and background — folks are all in on this together, and it’s really entertaining to see. I laughed, several times, at the absurdity of it all, that there were so many of us running around trying to attain these digital creatures, but the entire experience is also quite endearing. And that’s it, that’s the perfect word for it. Endearing. Seeing a young teenage couple steal a sweet kiss and a share a tender moment before traipsing off to hunt for their next Pokémon, watching a jogger moving quickly along the beach-side walkway with the phone in his bobbing hand revealing what was on the screen, shouts of victory from random pedestrians who just “took a picture” (but we really know what they were doing)… all of it is simply very endearing. There is a camaraderie in our madness, and it’s fun to be a part of it. On top of that, you just might discover a new, beautiful spot in your town that you otherwise wouldn’t have known about, or see a gorgeous sunset that you might’ve missed if you hadn’t been forced outside to play this game.
You’ll likely be hearing about Pokémon GO on Facebook, the news, and from folks you know in real life. Some may be obsessed, others might be against it all because they’re too cool, but even if Pokémon or video games aren’t really your thing, I suggest you give the game a whirl. Even if you don’t love the lore or the actual gameplay, you might be able to enjoy being a part of something that a LOT of other people are a part of. Something that’s fun, positive, and encourages you to explore the world around you.
…even if it’s just to hunt Pokémon.