Who would have thought that a simple, silly game would ever make me as happy as it has for the last few days?
Pokemon Go has been good for my social life, my marriage, and my health. (Well, it’s good for relieving my anxiety as long as the app is functioning properly… Haha)
Phil and I have been bonding in such a new, special way, as we’ve been spending lots of time together playing Pokémon Go. At night, our neighborhood becomes aglow with the pink confetti of the lures at the Pokestops along Vermont Avenue. Even when we’re tired, we have been walking between three and four miles a day to catch these fictional creatures, to defend the “Gym” at the Starbucks around the corner and even to meet new friends. It turns out that the loads of other people playing the game are generally very inclusive and kind hearted! The overall spirit of the adorable game seems to be just that: just be nice.
In addition to the additional exercise and the new “gaming” element between us, it has prompted friendly competition as we each try to out perform the other. As a result, Phil and I have a major rule for Pokémon Go. If we’re in the car, the driver obviously can’t play, so the passenger either has to play both phones—or doesn’t play at all.
Clearly, I like many others, have become completely enraptured by Pokémon Go. (Level 17, Team Mystic represent, thank you very much.) But despite my status as a Millennial, this almost did not happen.
See, when it comes to overnight fads, I’ve always been a little slow to adapt and often a hard skeptic. I think it’s the residual teenage rebellion in me, refusing to conform to the masses. Someone either needs to strongly urge me to try it for myself or I somehow, almost too late, cave to the fear of being left out.
So, to back up for a second, for the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is everywhere. Head outside, and if you’re anywhere near people, you’ve probably seen groupings of people staring at their phones, hunting and catching Pokémon that appear through the Augmented reality app. The game is actually as intriguing as it is entertaining and it’s been a big deal for Nintendo, whose value as company has apparently increase by $7.5 billion (give or take) since last week.
I’m married to Phil Hornshaw, a video games journalist, who seems to be on the up and up with pretty much everything entertainment. He encouraged me to download the game the say it came out, and while I refused, I followed he and some friends around Barnstall Park, catching Zubats. I was watching them have loads of fun, as still I was actively avoiding checking it out for myself.
This is namely because:
1) I never played Pokémon as a kid and so I assumed it would be too complicated for me to play. Back in the day, Pokemon just didn’t hook me the way that other 90s fads like Tomagatchis, Beanie Babies and bad pop music did. (Despite this, though, the card game, toys and animated TV series were embedded enough into the pop culture lexicon that I knew a thing or two. For instance: that the little yellow guy with the red cheeks and the lightening power is Pikachu, that the little bubbly turtle is named Squirtle, and that there was also this fat, gassy purple guy named Koffing who also happened to yell “Koffing.” But overall, I don’t know anything about how the world works or how the Pokémon “work.”
2) I felt weird about playing the game in the midst of everything currently happening in our culture. I’m referring to last week’s on-camera deaths of Philado Castile and Alton Sterling by police and the ongoing backlash as a result. It felt weird that so many people on my Facebook feed were posting about a silly game while #BlackLivesMatter protests were happening across the country.
Phil, who seemed to know that I’d enjoy playing the game, that it would make me happy, and made a deal with me. He reluctantly agreed to go get a pedicure with me if I downloaded Pokemon Go and gave it a try. I also, at some point, had the now fairly obvious realization that just because I’m enjoying myself by playing a game, it doesn’t mean I’m not outraged by the status quo. It doesn’t mean that I can’t still do my best to support the cause. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.
I’ve been learning how to play as I go—and lucky for me, the rules haven’t been too difficult to grasp. The game doesn’t come with a manual, so I think everyone has had to play with it a bit. Again, as mentioned previously, other players we’ve encountered have been very nice and excited to share their discoveries with us.
I’ve noticed from social media that there seem seem to generally be two camps when it comes to the game: Those that play and love it and those who don’t and hate it. (See: “When everyone’s posting about Pokemon Go, but you can’t relate because you’re not 10 and have shit to do.”) The way I see it though is that all of us have lives and jobs and happen to have found something new and fun to fill our spare time. No one is forcing you to play. There are zero medals awarded for being a curmudgeonly turd, so just let people be happy and excited as they enjoy themselves.