I think we’ve established at this point that I’m not above writing about the hot new thing for the sake of those precious clicks, though I’ll admit that I was going to play Pokemon GO anyway. As someone that walks the same 4 kilometer stretch of road just about everyday, I welcomed any opportunity to make the trip a little less mundane, imagining that I’d find a Vulpix on the roof of my workplace and have to battle it before I could enter. Perhaps later in the day I’d discover that my co-worker was secretly the gym leader all along, giving me one more reason to despise his very existence.
The reality is a bit less exciting.
Even ignoring that the servers are still very testy, Pokemon GO working completely as intended is… not a very good game. Of course, given the name, it didn’t actually need to be, the novelty of finding a Psyduck in a restroom being more than enough for most, but even after collecting roughly 30 Pokemon on my morning walk, I didn’t feel like I was actually accomplishing much of anything. That’s not just because they were mostly Rattatas and Pidgies and I felt like some sort of Poke Slum Lord, but there just isn’t much to do, especially if you’re like me and apparently live in the middle of nowhere, the game deeming the nearby church as the only important landmark. I sure threw Pokeballs over the heads of a bunch of Caterpies, but since there was no nearby gym to establish my poke-dominance, the appeal wore thin pretty quickly.
It wasn’t until I entered the nearby convenience store for my weekend shame bag (a sugary carbonated drink along with something from our friends at the Frito Lay corp) that I started to see the real potential of something like this. After finding a few uncommon fiends, I informed the nice man behind the counter of the Pokemon problem in their parking garage. His face immediately transformed from that of a fatigued minimum wage worker to that of someone that had found a kindred spirit. Immediately and with enthusiasm, he informed me that there was a Koffing near the dumpster that he’d been waiting all day to tell someone about.
Sure, I simply walked over to it minutes later and captured something that really does nothing other than sit on my phone, but had it not been for the game, me and that guy wouldn’t have shared that brief conversation, one that probably made his day. And I know moments like this aren’t aberrations, reading constantly about people that would have never spoken to each other previously working together to find these dumb little creatures in the world. It’s the promise that OG Pokemon Blue made twenty years ago when we were encouraged to seek out and trade with friends. Now we have an icebreaker, something that anyone of most any age can understand.
I’m certainly not here to say that a cheaply-made mobile game is the key to peaceful coexistence, but the whole reason we create things, create art, is for it to be shared among people. It just so happens that those same people usually need a distraction from the real world, even if only for a minute or two.