For more than a month now, people have been walking around town with their phones in their hands. For a change, people aren’t texting. They’re not even lost and looking for directions. Instead, they are actively playing a game called Pokemon Go.
This game features characters originally made popular in the United States in the late 1990s in games made for Nintendo video game systems.
Pokemon was an incredibly popular series of video games and equally popular animated show. Despite seeming to disappear at various points, Pokemon never actually went away. It featured different incarnations and the character base changed. Originally, there were 150 Pokemon; now there are hundreds of them.
Pokemon evolved to the mobile phone format for a game called Pokemon Go. Utilizing real-life GPS technology, the game requires users to walk around their neighborhoods using their phones to find locations of Pokemon at actual locations. Finding the Pokemon, the players swipe at their screens to “catch” the Pokemon in order for future training and battling.
I’d never seen any of this in action until I met with my friend Steven randomly on the street. He was partially occupied by the phone, but not too much so that he was unaware of his surroundings. After we exchanged greetings, he told me he was using a friend’s phone to help the friend find more Pokemon. He asked if I wanted to join him. I said yes.
The GPS locator found a Pokemon and we followed the path down actual blocks onto a major road. And the locator was accurate: right in front of the local branch of the Queens Library was the advertised Pokemon.
With a few swipes on his screen, Steven caught the Pokemon, which was added to the in-game collection. How does one play this game, I asked Steven. He explained the basic rules, and ended with directions on how to acquire the game itself.
“You need to download the app,” he said.
App? That was simply not possible.
My phone, you see, is not particularly app-enabled. Since 2012, I have been using the LG Reflex. I intentionally chose the Reflex when I upgraded from my original flip phone. The selling point was its sliding feature that revealed a keypad. Perfect for texting.
The LG Reflex has served me well, surviving a litany of drops and one liquid submersion. It has allowed all the phone calls I needed to make, sent every text I intended, pocket texted and dialed a few times, and took all the phone-based photos I have used online thus far.
Yes, my Reflex is a trusted adviser and a treasured member of my family.
I was crushed. Forlorn. Or maybe just a tinge disappointed.
My interest in Pokemon Go was present, but suddenly became lessened by the knowledge that it was phone-based only. I decided that it was fate that I should not occupy my time with Pokemon Go, and Poke-accepted that idea.
Clearly, I misunderstood the nature of the game. For when I returned home that very day, I entered my living area and there it was: a Pokemon! Just hanging out, sitting there. Enthused, I reached out and caught my first Pokemon: a Pidgeotto.
That was surprisingly easy, and I didn’t even need my phone. It was good to give my Reflex a rest. Reflex works hard on a daily basis.
I set out to watch WWE recaps on YouTube, and much to my surprise, there was another Pokemon! This time, Psyduck.
Psyduck has good taste, I noted to myself.
As I watched wrestling, I thought about Pokemon Go. I reviewed mental notes about people walking into stationary objects while they pursued Pokemon. I remembered stories about players falling off a cliff while on a Poke-search.
In New York’s Central Park, hundreds of Poke-chasers gathered with the hopes of catching a rare Pokemon. Hundreds of people, their attention focused solely on their phones, walked into the park in droves. Some left their cars behind to do this. Surely there was a safety hazard there.
All of these folks cramming themselves into one area, in the darkness, hoping to find an elusive Pokemon. Meanwhile, I walked outside and there in my back yard was a Zubat. I don’t know how elusive Zubat is, but I totally Poke-found one!
Riding the high of finding a Pokemon in my back yard, I got a little overzealous and pounced on what I thought was a Pokemon. Well, Poke-whoops, it was actually a little dog named Brian. I’ve actually had Brian in my life since I was 5 or 6. My bad, Brian.
Thankfully, I rebounded pretty quickly. And what a rebound it was!
When I went Poke-hunting with Steven, he told me that finding a Pikachu was incredibly rare. This is why he was super-psyched for the possibility, and even more thrilled upon actually catching one.
I opened my front door to check the mail and what did I find? A Pikachu, just standing around, staring at me. Score!
I went to the dining room table and read a little about Nintendo’s stock fluctuation during the height of Pokemon Go excitement. Initially, Nintendo’s stock skyrocketed, going hand-in-hand with the consumer passion for the product. Within weeks, investors learned that Nintendo was not fully responsible for the Pokemon Go game. Nintendo was only partially involved in the creation of it. Investors, learning of this, reacted accordingly.
Looking up from my reading, what did I see in my bowl of vegetables? A Poliwhirl.
While fun thus far, I started to notice the limitations of Pokemon Go. After finding a few, it seemed that the act of Poke-discovery became easier. Probably intuition was kicking in, leaving me more perceptive to the presence of the Pokemon themselves.
This suspicion was empirically proven almost immediately. I happened to glance into a mirror and I found a Seel hiding very much in plain sight.
By day’s end, I looked at all the Pokemon I had gathered. They were a formidable group. Kindly, Brian seemed to have made friends with them, or at least was tolerating their presence.
After 24 hours passed and no others showed up, I realized that I was Poke-finished. I had caught them all. The words of children in board game commercials from my youth were appropriate: “I Win!”