Everyone by now has to have heard of Pokémon GO. You may not understand what it is but you have heard of it. Pokémon GO has been in headlines, both real and fake over the past couple days since its release into Australia and the USA. Police stations and Dairy Queens alike have posted notices about Pokémon or items available at their location. But Pokémon is a GameBoy game, what does Dairy Queen have to do with it?
Pokémon GO is an augmented reality app that utilizes the phones camera and GPS to project CGI Pokémon onto the screen in various locations. The user can then use Pokéballs acquired at a designated PokéStops to capture the Pokémon. Developers have promised a future feature; the ability to battle other Pokémon trainers and Gym Leaders.
Businesses also have a stake in the app. Owners can sign up so that a rare Pokémon appears on their premises, drawing customers inside. Police stations are marked as PokéStops to collect items, even the Magic Castle at Disney Land is designated as a Pokémon gym.
What does that mean in stupid speak? The app uses the phones camera to put a Pokémon on the screen that you can ‘catch’. It brings people to businesses. It is GeoCaching on a worldwide scale.
Why is it so popular?
Well look at the demographic who is the most excited about it; 19-24 year olds. We grew up watching Pokémon as children. We grew up with Pokémon as a significant presence and a major interest in our lives. Trading cards could be used as currency in school (before they were banned), the tv show and the movies were constantly airing. How many of us asked Santa Clause for ‘a real Pokémon’ for Christmas?
The TV show still continues with over 800 episodes. Each ‘generation’ or game series brings new enemies, goals, comrades and 150 new Pokémon people love to hate. It is always a big deal when the next Pokémon project is released. Pokémon has not lessened in presence, people just expected people to get over it as they got older.
The games have aged up with their starting audience; complicating storylines and adding ethical dilemmas. The main plot may be to become the League Champion, but along the way you battle Team Magma/Aqua/Galaxy/Rocket in an attempt to stop them from doing evil deeds. One scenario had you rescue an NPC who was being manipulated. You always have your original goal in mind.
We are also the age group who had Tamagotchi’s, literally a creature on a screen that we would run up to strangers and connect with.
What is so great about this app?
This app is drawing fans from behind computer screens and bringing them together in real life. Recently there was a Tumblr post about a Lure being dropped, intending to Lure in a rare Pokémon, but instead lured 20 other Pokémon GO users outside and together. This is fantastic. An interest that is usually hidden is bringing people together to create friendships.
On the other side there are ways that people can take advantage of this. People are leaving their houses at night time, and stupid people are taking that opportunity to hurt them. Why is it weird to be out at 1am looking for Pokémon with your friends, but it is acceptable to be out at 3am, drunk, half naked and alone? Granted you should always be safe, but because one is Pokémon, or Japanese created, it is considered the worse of two options.
There have also been news headlines about traffic accidents, whether with other cars or with pedestrians, and that is our fault. As Pokémon Trainers we should still be ware of our surroundings, a wild Pokémon may attack.
The Pokémon Company and Nintendo have issued warnings both in the app and online telling people to be aware of their surroundings. The reason these headlines are so ‘buzz worthy’ are because they are caused by something people don’t understand. Car accidents caused by texting and phone calls were reported in the beginning but are scarce to be seen now.
So we 19-24 year olds live in the golden age. We are the perfect age to experience Pokémon as a child and remember it into adulthood, so now we can live our childhood dream of being Pokémon Trainers.
So to answer the burning question: What is wrong with us?
Nothing. Nothing is wrong with being excited about a major influence in our lives being adapted to the modern world. Technology is a tool and we can now use that tool to enjoy an intricate subculture and connect with like minded people. So what if a majority of people consider it ‘abnormal’ surely they have spent time, money, and been excited over something their parents considered stupid as well.
So to all new Pokémon Trainers, BE SAFE! Now go grab your Pokedex, slide on your running shoes and hat, shine your Gym Badges and Go Catch Them All!!