Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in the woods, or have been on a two week trip, sailing across the Atlantic, then you’ve probably heard about Pokemon Go. Maybe you’ve been observing it from afar. Maybe you’ve been dabbling with it on lunch breaks and afternoon walks. Or maybe you’ve been dedicating every waking moment to catching those infernal monsters and I swear if that Charizard slips his Pokeball again I’m going to lose my freaking mind!
Regardless of where you land on the subject, Pokemon Go is a phenomenon, and it’s one in the best of ways. Often times when it comes to the subject of video games, dissenters tend to land on the side of discouraging themselves or their children from playing because of what playing video games requires: being inside for sometimes hours on end, all the while staring at a TV. And they’re not wrong for their concern on that part. Video games, in some, creates obsessive behaviors, antisocial tendencies, and adverse health conditions, again, not due necessarily to the games themselves, but to the gamers and their way of handling their interests. But the same could be said for the man that “stays late for work” to hit 9 holes before coming home, or the man that spends every Saturday watching football games he doesn’t care about with a sign that says “Do Not Disturb: I’m doing the thing I love.”
Interests and the people that are interested in them can be positive or negative, depending on the hands they are in. But with Pokemon Go, there is actually something amazing happening. While it is a video game in a basic sense, most of what video games require the player to do is completely absent here.
For those who are unaware, Pokemon Go is a game for your phone that requires the player to get out there and “catch” Pokemon. They’re tracked and seen through something resembling Google Maps and much of the real world’s infrastructure and natural landscape plays into the game as well. While playing inside is theoretically possible, the game encourages its players to get out, go new places and walk around for a while; it almost, in a way, requires it.
This is amazing because it has gamified common things like walking, gathering together, and competing with one another for in-game footholds. And while other games and apps have tried to this same thing in the past, none have found such widespread success. People who would not usually interact with others are meeting with friends and the people they’ve met on the street. For those that would not usually exercise, they are out walking in 100 degree weather all in hopes of hatching a couple of eggs. It’s not perfect–it’s buggy, it crashes, and there are an overwhelming lack of variety of Pokemon types in certain areas–but even in non gamers, Pokemon Go has become something: an opportunity to be a kid in a world full of Pokemon amidst, what seems like at times, a gluttonous amount of worldly turmoil.
That’s why it’s hard for me to really understand where the people who really, fervently, dislike the world’s love of Pokemon Go, are coming from. As with anything, there will be people who love things and people who hate things. When the “bae” wagon rolled up, I couldn’t have been more done with everyone referring to everything as bae, to asking me “how is bae doing?” when asking about my fiancee, and to me refraining every time I heard it from striking someone in the forehead.
But there’s a difference between Pokemon Go and those things, I feel like, because bae, use it or don’t, is a stupid word. It’s a fad word with little meaning that everyone bandwagon’d to fit in. The same could be said for other words, for clothing trends, to music groups, and the like, but Pokemon Go, whether or not you are into actually playing it, is beneficial–it has a purpose– and that purpose isn’t just found in its encouragement of exercise or social interactions, but in its childlike nature, in what it rises up in us when we are walking around and playing it.
It seems like everyday there is a shooting somewhere. Or a bombing. Or some political scandal or race-related incident. Everywhere we look we have reasons to be depressed and, if we stare at them long enough, we will do just that. The true beauty of Pokemon Go isn’t in its execution or in its subject matter, but in its timing. This is something the world needs now and its something the world needs more of. We need sometimes to have something to bring us joy. We need sometimes to have something to return us to childhood, and while forgetting the world and all of its conflicts is a sure-fired way to destruction, we are beings with a need for joy and a need for the encouragement of it.
I’m glad for Pokemon Go, whether or not it’s here for months or disappears tomorrow, because it gives us an excuse to be children, and for everyone who is poo-pooing it, listen: your life is not that busy, it is not that wound up, and, some advice to you–let loose, quit getting in your own way, and let people just be happy without trying to shit on their parade; you’ll find it makes the world a little better.