By Nikki Jamieson
Earlier this month, Pokemon Go was officially launched in Canada. Within hours, the server crashed, due to the number of people wanting to play (I think the creators are still working on that).
To be fair, they were waiting on bated breath for the game’s release in Canada, especially since our neighbour to the south had been playing it for an entire week and were tweeting about how awesome it was. Now, it is our turn.
The game is based in an augmented reality. You download the app onto your phone, and as you go about your day, it alerts you about nearby Pokemon, and you try to catch them. Real life places can be PokeStops — places where large groups of Pokemon can be found — or gyms — place where you can fight other player’s Pokemon. The GPS feature is key, for where you are depends on what type of Pokemon you catch. For instance, if you are by a lake, you can catch water-type Pokemon, grassy places attract bug-types, you get the picture. Some Pokemon are more common then others, and there is 151 — the entire original roster — to catch and collect.
Pokemon was created in the late 1990s by Satoshi Tajiri, who wanted to blend his love for video games with his childhood hobby for bug-catching. The first game soon spawn countless other games, movies and a TV show, and the original roster of 151 Pokemon blew up to 722 known today, because lets face it, more are probably are on their way.
Since the U.S. release, the game has been downloaded more times in it’s first week then the popular dating app Tinder has in the four years it’s been available. Gamers are finally leaving their homes and experiencing fresh air, and reports are coming out saying the game improving some people improve their mental health, as they feel motivated to go out and do something instead of staying cooped up in their room all day. People have also been donating lures — game items that attract Pokemon — to hospitals to allow kids there to enjoy the game as well.
It’s not just good for the players; I know of an animal shelter in Indiana that started advertising to players for them to take their dogs out for walks while searching for Pokemon. It got so popular that there are now wait lists for walking the dogs, at least two players ended up adopting dogs, people started coming in and asking about specific dogs they had seen and they had to bring more dogs in from other shelters. Other shelters have also followed suit, so if you see someone staring at their phone while walking an unknown pooch, now you know why.
And if that wasn’t awesome enough, the game creators have also begun encouraging users to download charity walking apps, so while they’re searching for Pokemon, you can also raise money for charity. How cool is that?
Of course, looking down at a small screen and not paying attention to your surroundings does have its disadvantages. Reports have flooded in on people being robbed, assaulted or worse when playing the game, and we know of at least two people who have walked off a cliff when trying to find a Pokemon.
A near riot sprung up as people swarmed Central Park in New York, looking for the rare Pokemon who spawned there, and police campaigns have gone out, stressing that they don’t care how rare the Pokemon are, it is still not an excuse for trespassing. Of course, that didn’t stop the two kids who wondered into Montana from Alberta last weekend while playing the game. One particular Vancouver resident went viral after he got fed up with people running around his garden and put up a sign saying how stupid the game was — and he lived through hammer pants and the George W. Bush presidency — and not to trespass.
And let’s not forget about the controversy of the 9-11 memorial being a PokeSpot — the game designers really need to choose such spots better — or the players finding dead bodies — thankfully I have heard of none whose deaths were the result of foul play — while searching for Pokemon.
Lots can be said about vigilance, staying in groups and paying attention to your surroundings. But at the same time, it is concerning that there are some sickos out there willing to take advantage of someone’s enjoyment of what is supposed to be a fun game and twist it for their own nefarious purposes. To those who do, there is something seriously wrong with you
I remember playing Pokemon Red when I was younger. While graphics have gone a long way since then, I enjoyed watching the screen, moving my character about as I tried to catch a Rattata with my Squirtle. I enjoyed the TV show, and even had a Master Ball with an Eevee and a Flareon, but as time went on I sort of lost interest — the game began losing its appeal when that means hunting for an ever increasing roster of Pokemon. But it was fun at the time.
I’m not sure if I will download the app myself, because a) server issues, b) I have to work for a living and fear getting addicted to the point I neglect my job and c) precious data usage. But I know a few people who do, and they are enjoying themselves and are taking precautions; one is taking the family great dane/labrador/possibly small pony dog out with her as she searches, and another pair takes the shotgun seat role more seriously while they catch Pidgey for both players while the other drives. True, there are some who get so preoccupied about catching Pokemon that they forget about the errands they are supposed to be running, hence why responsible use of any game is always stressed!
Pokemon has come a long way since that first game, Pokemon Red and Green (Pokemon Red and Blue to the rest of us who don’t live in Japan).
More millennials will recognize Pikachu over the current U.S. vice-president, Joe Bidden. Jigglypuff has been unofficially declared the best Pokemon ever by some online news outlets. Rattata, Pidgey and Zubat can literally be found everywhere, no matter where you go. The franchise turns 20 this years. Despite the game originating in Japan, the app was only released there two weeks after its U.S. premier. It is the second most — only to Mario — successful video game franchise in the world (read: not just the U.S., but the whole freaking world) and has spawned 17 (soon to be 18) games, a musical, two TV shows, 21 films, toys and so much more.
It doesn’t matter if you are six or 60; if you enjoy it, you should feel free to do so. Maybe keep an eye on your surroundings to get a game buddy to walk around with you as you search for an elusive Pikachu but end up getting 100 or so Zubat instead (no fair, right? I mean, Ash got his on the first go!).
Just please, be careful when walking around, and don’t play while driving; no insurance agent is going to be amused when you tell them to drove into a fire hydrant because you were trying to catch a Charizard, and it is very likely the nurse won’t be able to hold back her laughter when you explain that you broke your foot because you slipped when catching a Bulbasaur.
But in the meantime; go catch em all.