I cannot tell you how many times people have mentioned Pokemon Go, a game app for smart phones, to me in the last few days. It’s billed as an “augmented” reality game based on the 1990s franchise of Pokémon.
Essentially, players walk around with the game running while looking for characters or clues in real locations.
I turned to co-worker Kristen Livengood on Tuesday for advice on how to play the game as she has a whole six hours more “experience” than I do. (She spent the previous evening going around her neighborhood after dark, bonding with her 8-year-old. A semi-scary encounter with a sotted gentleman on a bicycle also enhanced her life skill set, she said.)
So these clues and characters and power stations and something called a “gym” are all over the place. Players are supposed to walk to find the characters because the game “knows” if you are driving and the points of interest are obscured. The purpose of all this is, of course, to get video gamers out of their computer chairs. And it’s working — the internet is abuzz with stories of shut-ins walking many kilometers and finding new friends. (And one hysterical story of an insomniac meeting up with gangsters in a dark park who searched the area for Pokemon until they were eventually joined by law enforcement … who then joined the team as well. Players can join a team, but I can’t tell you about that or about the gym, because I have to attain level 5 first. Sorry.)
So, you’re supposed to walk. But seeing as it was a workday — and while my boss has a liberal approach on how we should spend our working hours, but is not totally insane — we took Kristen’s car. We drove to Winn-Dixie and pulled into the first parking spot. What followed as a herky-jerky exercise in digital ignorance.
“Okay, throw the ball! Throw it! Get it in the circle!”
“Tap it! Tap it!”
[Buzzing sounds and dazzling graphics]
“What does that mean?”
“I have no idea!”
When you get a clue, the phone’s camera takes a picture of the actual place with the character superimposed. Only, my front camera doesn’t work. So I have a bunch of horrifying snaps of my crepe-y neck spotted with Japanese creatures. Ungh.
Naturally, one would turn to the internet for more info … and, yet, I don’t understand a word of it. I found this helpful tip: “Player’s level decides the maximum CP a Pokemon can have or be powered up to. (EG: Max CP of a 250CP Evie might be 500 for a lvl 12 player, but 510 once he hits lvl 13.)” Right. Here’s what I do know — the best places to look are at public places like the supermarket, fire station, library or beach.
Okay, so the whole game may be a little pointless, but it has some really fantastic side effects. Like I mentioned before, it gets paunchy and pale video gamers out on the street meeting new friends in REAL life. It can actually bring you business! Some Pokemons are located “in” stores and one enterprising young man set up a stand selling reflectors for night players in a character-infested neighborhood. And it’s a little bit of light relief in a horrifying month where sadness and hate and outrage has touched almost every corner of this country — Orlando, New Orleans, Minnesota and Dallas. Keep searching for ways to “level up” in real life.