It has been two weeks since the ridiculously popular Pokemon Go released in North America and has since taken the mobile gaming market by storm. I myself have never seen so many people walking in my neighborhood. Families I’ve never seen leave their house except to drive off in their cars, kids I never knew lived in the area, and people from all walks of life wandering around, talking, and unwittingly getting more exercise in the course of a day than most of us would get in a week. We’re witnessing a true phenomenon that I expect will spawn a plethora of similar, or outright copy-cat, apps and games over the next several years. Augmented reality games are definitely a thing now, and not going anywhere anytime soon.
I’ve read some great stories about people coming together, meeting up and sharing their interest in this game. Just a couple days ago, I read a story a mother posted to Facebook about her autistic child who found a way to open up to other people through his love of the app. Communities are building around the game, bringing people together who might not otherwise meet and often finding they have more in common than just their desire to catch imaginary creatures.
As usual, with the good, there is some bad out there related to this game. People are getting hurt, wandering onto private property, stepping into traffic, and generally being complete idiots while playing. The worst cases are the people who claim “The game made me do it.” It’s almost like we have to say this a million and one times, and people still don’t seem to want to take any responsibility for their own actions, or lack of common sense.
Entertainment media does not make us violent, the cell phone doesn’t make us use it while driving, alcohol does not make us drink it, nor does any other inanimate object or service force us to do anything. We choose to go out and do stupid things, drive recklessly, or drink to excess, causing accidents. Saying, “it puts Pokemon across the street, forcing us to go get them,” just boggles the mind.
Everything in life, unless you never leave your block, is literally across the street. When you’re playing the game, on your phone, it shows you the roads, landmarks, cliffs, and dangers. Even if you’re distracted by the app, the app is showing you what lies ahead and you make a conscious choice to step onto the road. From what I understand, since my son plays it, you don’t even have to be looking at your phone, it alerts you when something is close.
Bottom line people, use common sense and take responsibility for yourself. It’s a fun game for people who like it, and has a lot of good about it, but it doesn’t cancel out the basics. Look both ways when you come to a street. Look up from your phone when walking, and pay attention to where you’re going. Don’t trespass, especially on government property. If you see Pikachu in ol’ man Flanders’ back yard, knock on his door and ask if you can go catch it. Don’t sneak around the local police station at night. If you’re out after dark, bear in mind curfews if you’re underage and don’t do anything you wouldn’t normally do late at night. You don’t suddenly become invincible just because you’re playing Pokemon Go.
Parents, you’re under more pressure with this app as well. Take it from me, it’s strange to see your otherwise introverted child, who rarely leaves the house, suddenly want to walk down the park in the evening to play this game with friends. Granted, mine is older, so we aren’t as worried as I imagine parents of younger kids are. Have you talked to your kids about strangers, where to go and where not to, and what to do if they are in danger? These are all fairly standard topics for parents of active kids who get out and run around all day, but if you’re a parent of a gamer who spends most of their time indoors, this may not be the case. Have that talk, and have it again. Heck, go out with them, if you have an interest in the game.
I have to say, though, despite the isolated cases of the dumbs I’m seeing out there, there are a lot of people having a great time and meeting new people. There’s been a couple of ‘ew, nerds, don’t talk to me’ articles, but really the overwhelming majority of people seem to be coming together around this simple little game. With so much ugliness in the world, it’s a much needed bright spot. Let’s keep that up, whether you’re a player, a parent, or a journalist covering the game.