Are the dozen or two people constantly outside the Brookings County Courthouse all waiting for court dates on Monday? No. They’re part of the roving bands of nomads wandering the streets who have started playing the handheld “Augmented Reality” game Pokemon Go.
The game was released in the past couple of weeks, and it has hit the United States like nothing you’ve ever seen, with an estimated 9.55 million daily users of the game, who span all age groups. Admittedly, I’m a bit addicted to the telephone app, and went walking with my wife and children this morning – I had the dog, while the kids played on my wife’s phone, and my own.
The game has already found it’s way into the political lexicon, with the presidential contenders each trying to “out clever” each other by using Pokemon Go references in jabs against their opponent:
Having my children grow up with the cartoon, I can see why it’s become so popular – a bit of nostalgia for millenials, combined with a old-fashioned scavenger hunt. It’s like geo-caching with a smartphone assist. And for school-age kids, what parent is going to complain about their kids wanting to get out from behind the computer or iPad, and go for mile-long hikes? The opposite, actually, as parents such as myself do what they can to facilitate it.
And it’s not just the young. As noted above, I was downtown in the area bounded by the City Library, the County Courthouse, the Brookings arts Building, and the Children’s Museum. It forms the City’s “Pokemon epicenter” with no fewer than 4 poke-stops, and a poke-gym all in the immediate vicinity. My wife and I came across a couple who had to be in their 70’s walking around with their smartphones out, as well as a man in his late 50’s – early 60’s with his phone mounted on his bicycle handle, to allow him easy access to seek out and catch the electronic prey.
It’s pretty harmless fun, unless people are stupid about it by not paying attention where they’re going. Or as the security staff of a local organization noted to me tonight – he’s had to reset the alarm system for the building he’s responsible for, because people climb fences to try to hunt for pokemon. And they’re doing it here just like they do everywhere else.
We’ll see how long the country’s obsession with catching pokemon lasts. It may just be Summer love, or it could hang around a while. As long as people get the hint to watch where they’re going, and keep it to public areas, the pursuit of walking around in search of treasure (via virtual reality) sounds like a fairly harmless pursuit, where the unintended consequences may involve exercise and (at least some) social interaction.
Oh, darn, huh?