Unless you’ve been living under an Onix, you’ve likely heard about Pokémon Go.
The location-based augmented reality mobile game hasn’t even been out two weeks – and isn’t even officially available in Canada – but more than 15 million people worldwide have downloaded the app to be the very best like no one ever was.
The game has seen a tsunami of teens and young adults wander their neighbourhoods to ‘catch ‘em all,’ looking through the screens of their smart phones to find, capture, train and battle the virtual “pocket monsters.” The game uses the phones’ GPS to indicate where Pokémon may be hiding, and uses the camera to display them in a real-world setting.
Depending on when you were born, you either get it or you don’t.
My newsfeed is filled with posts from both sides of the generational divide: millennials out at 2:30 a.m. flinging Pokéballs at Zubats, contrasted by 40-somethings who never understood the ’90s phenomenon when it was a series of Game Boy titles, and still don’t get it now.
Many from my generation are touting the benefit of “getting nerds to go outside” while anyone with a mortgage has written it off as a good way to walk into traffic.
I may be a little biased.
I was a tween at the peak of the video game/anime/trading card franchise’s popularity, and I may’ve seen the first Pokémon movie for my 11th birthday. (Not to brag, but it was the party to go to that year.)
While I and a dozen friends had our eyes wide, wondering if a petrified Ash Ketchum would ever break out from stone and defeat Mewtwo, my dad in the row behind me was doing his best Snorlax imitation and had fallen asleep.
Eleven-year-old me couldn’t believe that something I found to be so exciting was boring enough for my dad to doze off as though Jigglypuff had just sang to him and drawn on his face.
Of course, as a teenager, the number of Pokémon had tripled and the craze seemed like a passing fad. I too saw it as a lame, childish waste of time and left my collection of trading cards and game cartridges to gather dust. When I reached university, Pokémon was suddenly in vogue again, and has remained so well into 2016.
I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and I see where my friends and my parents are each coming from.
For Generation Y, Pokémon Go is a nostalgic flashback to lazy afternoons spent trying to obtain all eight gym badges, or glitch cloning Mew via link cables well before WiFi was a thing. For Boomers, it’s a bizarre resurgence of a Pokémania that at one time burned out but has refused to fade away.
Our elders may think 15 million teenagers and yuppies aimlessly roaming the streets in search of Pokémon highlights a generational lack of responsibility. In the same vein, there were parents who dismissed rock ‘n’ roll, and parents who thought “the talkies” would die out.
It’s another form of entertainment, one that young adults can do – pardon the pun – on the go. We no longer have hours on end to spend walking from Pallet Town to Saffron City, but we may have time walking to our day jobs to stop and catch an Eevee.
We’ll just try to pay a bit more attention where we’re walking. No promises, though.