You’ve got two choices when your world is in the grip of a craze: Invoke disdain or plunge off the Pokemon cliff with all the other lemmings. (Anyone remember Lemmings?)
Of course I had a go. Five minutes after I’d decided to download the game there was a Squirtle beside the couch, and two more pocket monsters in the kitchen. It took rather longer for me to figure out how you’re supposed to catch them, probably because I’m not twelve.
Actually, I’ve yet to see a twelve year old play it. The game first caught my attention when I was suddenly having to weave the pram around all sorts of wierdos clustered with their phones by the beach. The usual elderly walkers, tiny dog draggers and pram pushers were completely outnumbered by groups of men all either giggling or waving their phones about in a mad way and swiping at them. Grimy tradies in high-vis, H&M clad students, the occasional considered hipster (always bearded, wearing headphones, and resolutely collecting rather than battling.) Day after day the crowds got bigger. Here’s what our park looks like now:
It is a lot like a fancy dress party, you can just rock on up and ask random people about stuff. Unfortunately, if you’re a middle aged woman with two kids the ONLY thing you have in common with these people is Pokemon Go. Unless you really actually give a shit you’re going to have to fake talking about Razz Berries and Lures and Bulbasomethings.
But still, the world promised to us by science fiction is here. Your reality can blur with zeros and ones into a new space, that’s limited only by server issues, battery power, signal, cold fingers, data plans…
Retro. Collectable. Contestable. Cute. It was, with augmented hindsight, always bound to be a hit. Funny that if you’re wearing Google Glass you’re an arsehole, but if you’re waving your phone about trying to catch little animated monsters you’re currently cool.
How long will it last? Anyone care to wager? I reckon it’s got about 3 more weeks down here in the middle of a Melbourne winter. But the scale and speed of this phenomenon is hard to fathom. The threat of war or the dissolution of democracy rarely inspires people across the western nations to gather together in crowds this size. Dire warnings from health professionals can’t move this many folk to their feet. A few pixels on a smart phone can, and that BOGGLES MY MIND. Can the next world-wide craze please be beneficial to the environment and social equality? That would be nice.
But back to me, and being shit at it. I caught three pokemon quickly and easily, then discovered that you had to keep the app on all the time while you’re walking to find the flighty little bastards, which is a real battery-suck. And the more I delved into leveling up and controlling a gym and blah blah blah the less I cared about the game and the more I cared about all the important information that was falling out of my brain to fit that stuff in. If I’m going to learn another language, I’m going to make it Italian or Spanish, not Pokemon. In the end I was handed a choice: walk a bit further down Railway St and try to catch a Charizard that had just appeared, or bite into my freshly made borek from the Altona Station Kebab shop. Guess which won?