I missed Pokémon when it enjoyed its original spotlight moment. The original Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue released in 1998 in the United States, and by then I was driving a car for the first time and focusing on finishing high school (with breaks for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on my Nintendo 64). Since most of my Game Boy time had been spent in the backseat of my parents' car as an underage passenger, once I was able to hit the road on my own and pal around with friends on our own terms, my interest in Game Boy games began to wane (I even missed out on Wario Land 2 and the twin Zelda games Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, all experience gaps I rectified as an adult). Combine all of that with societal peer pressure that older teens like myself should not partake of the "gotta catch 'em all" sensation that was gripping our collective elementary school siblings and cousins, my social circle never had to choose between Charmander and Squirtle. Having missed that original window into Pokémon, I never really bothered to pursue it later in life. That's all a long way to start to explain why when it comes to the new mobile augmented reality sensation Pokémon Go, I'm on the outside looking in. I'll never have the connection to it that my friends do, but that's OK.
So far my daily real world exposure to Pokémon Go has mainly been through baffled slightly older co-workers who have come to me (being the office's resident video game expert in a group of otherwise casual players who remember Pac-Man and maybe once owned a Nintendo Wii) asking what the hell this game they saw on the news or that their kids are playing is all about. We talk about the GO incidents that have made the rounds such as the player who found a dead body, the police departments that have issued cautionary safety statements about the game, and the homeowners who live in a Go gym because their house used to be a church. Some of them predict doom; we've talked about the lowlives who used the game to help rob players in Missouri and most here agree it's only a matter of time before a child is kidnapped or worse while out roaming around unattended. We've talked about traffic accidents waiting to happen because either a careless kid ran out into the street in pursuit of a pocketable monster or an adult player who should really know better is distracted by the game while driving. It doesn't take long for someone who doesn't understand the appeal of an activity to find ways to put it down as dangerous or wasteful.
My girlfriend and I have talked about getting into Pokémon Go. She was mildly interested, but was immediately put off of it when she found out how much battery power and mobile data it uses to play regularly enough to make any progress. As for me, I have a secondary battery built into my phone case and generous data plan, so I downloaded the app and tried to register, but the servers were too busy to open a new user account. Maybe it's for the best right now. I love a good walk, but it's much too hot to go exploring in this hot stormy Florida summer. Maybe come winter.
I do wonder if I'd be more eager to try the game if it relied on another Nintendo property that means much more to me than Pokémon, and that brings me back around to being someone on the outside looking in. Even if I did play, Pokémon Go would never means as much to me as it does to all of the excited people I see on social media who are having the time of their lives living out those childhood fantasies of being proper trainers working to be the best like no one ever was. What I'm getting out of Pokémon Go is not trying the game itself, but the enjoyment of seeing everyone playing it being so happy. I've read anecdotal stories about Go players of all ages and races meeting up at gyms and swapping trainer tales and tips from games gone by. I'm glad that it's out there and that people are enjoying it so much. As terrible as life can be sometimes and as much negativity as there is in the world, more than a Pikachu what all of us really want to catch is joy, and if Pokémon Go and can help do that for you and me on any level either as a player or an observer of the sensation, then it's a worthwhile addition to the zeitgeist.
I really hope somebody discovers a Mew hiding under a truck.
My college town animal shelter is letting kids walk dogs while they play Pokemon Go. I love this new world. pic.twitter.com/h7yIuNtoEC— Joseph Knoop (@JosephKnoop) July 12, 2016
Actual quote from police scanner at 4AM: "Looks like everyone is out here playing Pokemon tonight."— alex (@alexandriiiaf) July 9, 2016
i've been waiting for this text my whole life pic.twitter.com/xAPZwutHWd— Lillie™ (@Main_Manners) July 8, 2016
Really looking forward to the Pokemon Go Baby Boom in 9 months. Lotsa baby Eevees on the way. pic.twitter.com/ha8FENUO3O— Jeffrey Grubb (@JeffGrubb) July 8, 2016
This is the America I want to live in pic.twitter.com/P28MBw0ho4— Ben Juwono (@e1n) July 8, 2016