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Rant#5 – Pokèmon No!

July 2016

My Facebook feed has looked more or less the exact same for the past 10 days and it is driving me crazy.

What used to be a grand assortment of cheesy TinyTales, embarrassing selfies of friends, superhero news, soulful poetry and most importantly, Cyanide & Happiness’ gloriously dark memes, is now either about 20 year olds trying to be 12 or one 65 year old that the people of this state are convinced hasn’t aged a day beyond 25. (Not going to discuss the latter because I fear for my life.)

Firstly, I have never seen a single Pokémon episode in my life, since we had no cable in our TV until I was 9 and and even then Cartoon Network and Animax were “dish-TV” exclusives. Tom and Jerry and Popeye did fill up my childhood through VCDs but Pokémon, DragonBall Z and Mickey Mouse stayed a distant dream for me. I guess it was around the time of Power Rangers that I got into the same mainstream TV league as my peers.

Anyway…

Pokémon Go has been here for about a fortnight now, and it is here to stay. It filled up my news feed during the vacation, and coming to college made me realise how big it actually is. The concept is exhilaratingly neat, so elegant yet effective, at least as far as smartphone video games go. Just yesterday I witnessed a guy whom I’ve seen skip dinner because the mess hall is three floors down for more times than I cared to count, voluntarily step out of his room and walk around the campus twice (that’s somewhere around 4-5 kilometers) in search of a cartoon. This is a feat that nearly thirty of us have been unable to convince him to do in the past 2 years and a smartphone app did the trick. This is it, the machines have risen.

I also read online that the game is helping people cope with depression, PTSD and making friends out of introverted strangers at a rate that rivals Facebook in its initial years. It has grown bigger than Tinder, Twitter and wait for it…Porn! People have spent more time walking around, catching augmented reality caricatures in the last 2 weeks than they did sitting in a couch, well you know the drill. (I tried so hard to put in a witty pun there, but sadly I do not possess enough Pokèmon knowledge to come up with anything impressive.)

However, people have already begun overdosing on this and the result is distressing. People who are never seen in class have started showing up very regularly, but just so that the walking helps their eggs to hatch (Aren’t you supposed to sit in one place to hatch eggs?), people who never miss classes have started disappearing because the gym next to the library turned yellow and don’t even get me started on all the idiots bumping into me during my nightly stroll. Akin to most other video games and idol worship, this game has posed another arena for people to feel the rush of achievement while their real lives lie in ruins around them. So what if I’m failing this semester? I own the only CP810 ~insert wrongly pronounced Pokèmon name~ in campus!

Of course my views are confined, as a student, to this sprawling yet bounded University campus. Things might be better or worse outside the fence. Turns out game accounts are being sold for high amounts, people are paying to be ‘Pokèmon Go drivers’, breaking into restricted areas and getting arrested and even finding dead bodies. Church visits have also skyrocketed up in a short span, so hopefully God is happy.

Games like Call of Duty and DOTA used to rule the dorm halls initially, and then came the more convenient smartphone apps like Clash of Clans and Mini Militia which made it possible to game inside classrooms and bathrooms alike, however the addiction factor was never even close to Pokèmon Go considering your average Joe. They peaked for a while and died down to a saturation state, which seems to be missing this time. I do realise the game is very new, right now, but I have a feeling it’s going to take a long time to saturate. Why, you ask? Well, I have a theory. The augmented reality component of the game is what pushes it leagues up. It’s not pretend play anymore. You are no longer pretending to be a Marine battling OpFor in a stagnant submarine somewhere in the Pacific Ocean ; you are you, walking in your street, catching Pokémon on your daily walk to the sandwich shop and battling with people you have been jogging with for the past 4 years in the park you visit when the weather is cool. The game is refreshingly new, yet fits right into your life giving it the same air of familiarity and importance as your couch, or job or wife. The nostalgia of a distant childhood that Pokèmon brings bubbling to the surface is just the cherry on top of the icing on top of the delicious cheesecake that is Pokèmon Go. People tend to love cheesecakes too much.

And that is slightly worrying. That and the Facebook wall stuff I mentioned in the beginning.

Gotta catch ’em all or not. It’s okay. Take it easy.

Fight me.