Trends are funny things to predict. Companies and developers release a product or game thinking they have a huge hit on their hands only to discover, after the release date, that it’s anything but a hit. Others quietly release something without a ton of marketing leading up to its launch date and find it has become a nationwide or even global phenomenon. The recent release of Pokemon Go for Android and iOS devices has brought forth an accidental perfect storm of utilizing the ever popular casual gaming app market and blending it together with a well-known and ongoing franchise that is Pokemon.
In the interest of being as transparent as I’m comfortable being with my readers, I’ll go on the record by saying this, I have not downloaded or played Pokemon Go since its release a few weeks ago. All thoughts and opinions about the game are based on what I’ve observed of friends who are playing the game and news articles I’ve read about the Pokemon Go frenzy. I know it might be better if I actually downloaded the app and played a bit of it myself, but there are plenty of articles about people’s experience playing the game. Let’s call my post an outsider’s perspective and why I’m reluctant to try the app.
The free-to-play mobile app is an augmented reality game that uses your phone’s camera and GPS to track down and catch any Pokemon you manage to find. Like the anime and Nintendo games, there’s a chance for players to battle a gym leader at a Pokemon gym which are mostly located in popular meeting places in your local area. Building upon the community aspect of the game, a player can join three teams: Team Valor, Team Mystic, and Team Instinct. Fans of Pokemon who always fantasized about going on adventures, capturing their very own Pikachu, and battling their way to become a Pokemon master gets close to the real thing with Pokemon Go.
When the Pokemon anime first aired in the U.S. in the ’90s, like any kid growing up during that time, I watched it regularly along side Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. Watching a kid named Ash with his Pokemon Pikachu go on adventures to catch more Pokemon and battle gym leaders from town to town with his friends Misty and Brock was a fun show to tune into as a kid. It certainly appealed to my adventurous streak and many of the Pokemon they encountered were cute or had unique abilities that can either work for or against a Pokemon trainer. It was also amusing to watch the many ways Team Rocket with their Meowth fail miserably at stealing Pokemon and Ash’s Pikachu week after week. While I was very much into the anime back then, the only thing I wasn’t doing was playing the video games.
If you followed my blog for a long time now, you know I got into gaming late. The first time I’ve ever touched or played a Pokemon game was when I got my Nintendo DS Lite. While I do think Nintendo’s Pokemon video games are fun, I have yet to finish a single one. Many of the ones I own are in varying stages of progress. I think one of the games I’ve played are nearly finished too. As fun and adorable it is to play Pokemon and battle other trainers in the game, I do find the Pokemon games to be a lot of work and a big time investment. This is really my main reason why I won’t play Pokemon Go.
Scouring your neighborhood or favorite hangouts for Pokemon takes considerable effort. Just like the video game, you have to go to certain areas to catch a particular type of Pokemon you may not have yet. When you find the one you want, you have to hope the Poke Ball you throw at it will register and the Pokemon doesn’t decide to resist and run away. There’s also the addictive nature of capturing almost every Pokemon you can find including the rare ones. When I played the DS version of Pokemon, I spent hours looking through the tall grass to find any Pokemon I haven’t captured yet. This time consuming process also meant I wasn’t leaving the current town my trainer was in or progressing the story at any considerable rate. There’s also the necessity of leveling up your Pokemon if you want to have a chance against higher level Pokemon or the gym leaders you’ll be facing later in the game.
The reports I’ve read said Pokemon Go encourages players to go out more because the app does push players to walk around their neighborhoods to catch rare or harder to find Pokemon you won’t be able to find by staying in your house. Pokemon Go is the new exercise trend! There’s also reports of boosting social interaction among other Pokemon Go users. I’m not sure what it’s like where any of you live, dear readers, but in a place like New York City where we often don’t make eye contact with one another and are always in a rush to get someplace, apparently a bunch of news articles have interviewed players who said they end up talking and connecting with people just by being outside and sharing the same goal of searching parks or public spaces to catch Pokemon. I’m sure those who have never played Pokemon or even watched the anime growing up are probably playing Pokemon Go based on their friends playing or due to sheer curiosity alone. Pokemon seems to be uniting the world for a common goal, as silly as it seems when you think about it. These may be positive reasons for getting on the Pokemon Go train, but there are also some major downsides to this game.
I’ve never seen a game like Pokemon Go take off in the way it has. The obsession to live by the motto of “gotta catch ’em all” has reached levels of crazy with reports of people putting themselves in danger, such as an attempted robbery or finding a dead body when innocently hunting for Pokemon. There’s also people who are way too into the game that they forget where they are and end up being unintentionally disrespectful by catching Pokemon at the Holocaust Memorial Museum or near the 9/11 Memorial site. At the time of this writing, there’s still more bizarre stories streaming in related to the game. It’s starting to get difficult to keep track of them all and it’s even harder to accept that these stories are true. In most cases, they end up being confirmed as real. Look guys, I get it, Pokemon Go is loads of fun but I think what scares me the most about this game is the almost zombified behavior it has brought out in people. The obsession/addiction is really real when your entire newsfeed is filled with nothing but Pokemon Go articles and status updates about the app on Facebook every time you log in.
I don’t begrudge my friends/acquaintances who enjoy playing Pokemon Go. The exercise and social connection resulting from Pokemon Go are fantastic to hear about. In fact, some of the photos my friends take with their Pokemon are actually funny and kinda cute. But when this is all I hear and see almost on a daily basis, it becomes too much to want to deal with anymore. I may not have drunk the Pokemon Go Koolaid like everyone else has, but I respectfully decline the need to jump on this trend. I’ll actually be happy when this whole thing dies out. Maybe? Hopefully?
To all the Pokemon Go players out there, remember to be safe and please use common sense. Definitely have fun and congregate with like minded people who love the app, but it’s still just a game at the end of the day. It’s not real life and don’t put yourselves in danger or get into potentially stupid situations for a bunch of pocket monsters. As for me? You can find me reading a book in a corner or being uncool by picking up my dusty Nintendo DS to play the old school Pokemon games on a game card.