Pokémon App Creates National Craze

Pokémon App Creates National Craze
FILE - In this Tuesday, July 12, 2016, file photo, Pinsir, a Pokemon, is found by a group of Pokemon Go players at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. The "Pokemon Go" craze has sent legions of players hiking around cities and battling with "pocket monsters" on their smartphones. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

FILE – In this Tuesday, July 12, 2016, file photo, Pinsir, a Pokemon, is found by a group of Pokemon Go players at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. The “Pokemon Go” craze has sent legions of players hiking around cities and battling with “pocket monsters” on their smartphones. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

When I was 12 years old, Pokémon Red and Blue hit the United States. I, like so many others of my generation, became obsessed. Card games, game boy accessories, toys, VHS copies of the anime (which back then meant like, a maximum of four episodes), clothing; you name it, my friends and I were obsessed with it.

Back then we didn’t have the global community we have now. That makes me sounds like I’m speaking from the fifties, but this was 1998. The internet just didn’t have the power it has now. The internet was still spelled with a lowercase ‘i’, unlike the commonality of making it a proper noun these days. We still had AOL.

So my Pokémon brothers and sisters were all players of the game at my elementary school, and it was a small nerdy group. Fast forward to 2016, and nerd culture is all there is. We are the new jocks and preps. To be un-nerdy is a mark of being uncool, which is… really weird. Enter Pokémon. More specifically, enter PokémonGO.

Imagine how unprepared someone like me (or the hundreds of players out there with the same story) experiencing a massive, actual Pokémon happening. I have yet to go out on a hunt and not see at least 30 other trainers. The Fayetteville square, Dickson Street, The Promenade, the university; every major location in Northwest Arkansas is teeming with both Pokémon and Pokémon trainers (for the uninitiated for whom GO is their first foray into the world of Pokémon, that is what we are.)

Thankfully, Niantic are adding Player vs. Player battles, as well as trading Pokémon, so soon enough when GO players make eye contact, we can do what we’re trained to do: recite really f——-g weird one-liners and battle because we made eye contact. As it stands, we just kind of awkwardly wave and acknowledge that “Yes, I am also an adult capturing cartoon monsters, and am perfectly okay with that.”

This game is absolutely unprecedented. When it was announced, Pokémon fans rejoiced, but in all honesty, none of us had a fraction of a clue. Hell, Niantic, the company that helped develop the game, didn’t have a clue how massive this would be, which is why trainers (GO players) are well versed in the modern “blue screen of death”: “The PokémonGO Servers Are Down, Apologies and blah blah blah.”

I cannot even slightly express to you the insanity of seeing how this game has taken off. Central Park is overcrowded with trainers. Australian police are issuing statements about being safe. The Tennessee highway patrol are reminding people not to play Pokémon while driving. A girl found a dead body while tracking Pokémon. Dumbass teens have used it to become actual members of the nefarious Team Rocket; stealing people’s phones along with their Pokémon.

When I was 12, this was a daydream. People becoming Pokémon trainers and hunting out their favorites. Now, at 28 years old, it’s become a reality, and I could not be happier. Not only is it fulfilling the dreams of mine and just about every generation that succeeded mine, but it’s getting people out and exploring. It’s making people who would never have met otherwise meet and form groups. It’s even doing wonders for mental health; folks like me with severe depression and anxiety, vets with PTSD. Across the board, people are saying what an amazing thing Niantic and The Pokémon Company/Nintendo have accomplished. It’s more than a game, it’s therapy for an astounding number of people.

Being that this is 2016, people are of course being shitty about it and calling the older folks playing babies and ironically acting like sixth graders in their attacks, but I’ve yet to see a single person actually take that to heart.

What I’ve seen are strangers uniting over a shared love of these silly, cute little Japanese creatures that came out 20 years ago. What I see are people from the age of 30 to the age of five smiling and being friendly with each other and giving trainer tips and helping each other out. What I see are people spending money on lures just to let others have a chance to catch something cool.

What I’ve seen with this game is unity, in a time when we need that more than anything else. Not just American unity, either, this is a global thing. Just like the real games.

Everyone wants to be the very best, like no one ever was, and we’re all willing to help each other along the way. It’s a beautiful thing. It really is.

Categories: Commentary