The Phenomenon That is Pokémon Go

The Phenomenon That is Pokémon Go

Koi Germany, Jr., Staff Writer

The bus ground to a halt at my stop. I alighted, dug into my pocket, and fumbled around for my iPhone before finally firing up the app. I stared at the game’s loading screen with sheer panic. “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings,” it read. The servers have a tendency to overload, especially now that the app is the most popular in American mobile gaming history. Alas, I managed to connect. Sheer glee.

Pelham Bay Station Gym/Screenshot

Koi’s Gym/Screenshot

Quickly, I joined the virtual gym located in the nearby train station on behalf of my in-game faction, Team Mystic, and made my way to the adjacent park, the phrase “Gotta catch ‘em all,” my sole motivation.

It tacked an extra hour onto my evening commute. I wanted to be the very best like no one ever was, sue me.

To the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is a blight, a cell phone-draining distraction unworthy of the hype, fanfare and news coverage it has garnered in the almost three weeks since its release. However, the fervor surrounding what is arguably Nintendo’s most popular franchise of all time (sorry, Mario!) is both well-earned and time-tested.

Those unfamiliar with the original 90’s craze will not remember the throngs of kids and parents who snaked through toy stores, shopping malls and hobby shops alike, all clamoring to get their hands on the latest iteration of the colorful critters known as Pokémon. With special powers that their owners, called “trainers”, could call upon, they were indispensible in the journey to become Pokémon master and perfect for child minds to get hooked on. From video games and breakfast cereals to a monumental cartoon series, Pokémon infiltrated every facet of life.

Flash-forward to 2016, the once Game Boy-playing children are now smartphone-wielding millennials and Pokémon have all but assimilated into (augmented) reality. And this is the draw, Pokémon Go allows players to live out their dreams of having their own super-charged creatures in the real world. Whether you’re taking a stroll through the woods or lounging at the beach, chance encounters are right around the corner.

 

Central Park Pokemon Hunt / Koi Germany Jr

Central Park Pokémon Hunt / Koi Germany Jr

 

Events of recent suggest the enormity of the application, including its surpassing of Twitter for number of daily users and Facebook for minutes per day spent interacting. Medical research even suggests that playing is boon for physical and mental wellness, requiring that players explore the world around them in order advance in the game, and, consequently, increasing the sense social interaction and belonging. All this to say, Pokémon Go isn’t going away anytime soon.

And, as with everything, there are always drawbacks. We’ve all heard the story of the girl who was injured crossing a busy highway to catch Pokémon, or the thugs who robbed innocent victims at gunpoint at popular playing areas. These, however, are the anomalies.

Back at the park, I found that my once solo journey had become a team effort. Motorists, cyclists, and even a few off-duty EMS workers joined in, eager to catch what the evening had to offer. Laughs were shared, Pokémon were compared and a sense of kinship was formed between complete strangers. And really, is that so bad?

 

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