Thursday, July 14, 2016

I'm an adult playing Pokemon Go... and I'm not sorry.

Hi y'all, I have a confession to make...  I've been playing Pokemon Go.  To be honest, I probably would have been content to have few people close to me be aware of this guilty pleasure, but then I saw Facebook (the social medium of choice for the adult demographic, by data) be all like:

There are so many memes and harsh comments out there, some that are downright offensive.  I guess I was a little bit surprised to see such animosity over something so trivial, especially given the seriousness of news around the world...  but then I realized to the uninitiated, it's just an annoying trend that you see a ton of people doing that doesn't appeal to you.  Like planking or dabbing?  Candy Crush?  There are things I see that I don't quite understand either.  But to focus on the positive, I realized that EVERYONE has a fandom.

What?  You're not a nerd, so you don't have a fandom?  Trust me, you do.  Even if you don't have a smartphone, computer, or television, there is something in your life that you enjoy, and go some lengths to enjoy, that makes other people go, "Huh?"  Fandom is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest... and that could be watching a specific sports team religiously while wearing that team's apparel, or lining up at a store or warehouse hours before it opens to buy your favorite designer's stuff/video game/vintage clothing, or having an intense collection of stickers and stamps for your Erin Condren Life Planner/Happy Planner (guilty as charged).  There are people who view your fandom and think, "That's lame."  Because they don't share that common interest, they write it off.  I still haven't joined Snapchat.  I don't get it.  But I don't have disdain or animosity for those who use it.

I loved the Pokemon cartoon when I was younger, catching it after school if it was on (no DVR or Netflix in those days!).  I would argue that in this day and age of 90s reboots (Fuller House, Girl Meets World, reunion music tours, Britney Spears in residence in Las Vegas), this Pokemon release was just as much for adults as for kids.  The market is primed for nostalgic releases like this, especially since our age group now has its own wallet; the MBA nerd in me is all about this genius move.  I love seeing clever marketing that local businesses are doing around this, including some places introducing pub crawls or even historic tours that double as Pokemon hunts (looking at you, National Park Service, you go!).  Local businesses know that you can't buy foot traffic, only maybe now you can literally lure people to your storefront.

Amusing photos of Pokemon Go in the world... and the last one is great marketing.

So here, as a grown, educated, employed, married, social adult with real-life friends and family and things to do...  I share why I personally enjoy a little Pokemon Go in the morning.  (And during my lunch break.  And some evenings.  #honesty)

  • It's a break for my brain.  After my divorce, I struggled with anxiety and shame and worry.  I had a therapist tell me once that my brain was so active, I needed a way to relieve anxiety or worry that turns my brain OFF for a little while.  At the time, we laughed that reality TV helped a whole lot with that; I used to love the Real Housewives of OC and New Jersey.  Now, Pokemon Go provides me the perfect little break from the grind.  It's also helping people battling depression/agoraphobia, for real!  And it’s FREE. 

  • The idea is really cool.  It uses GPS technology to map your real world, and you discover a little magic within it; it's amusing to see, through your phone, these Pokemon pop up and be visible through the camera in the context of reality.  This is going to change the gaming landscape, I guarantee it.  Nintendo is seeing positive stock results, and all it did was license the characters.  Tech nerd in me thinks this alone is worth acknowledging, whether you play or not.  Does it affect my phone's data/battery?  Sure, but I pay my own bills.

  • It forces you to go outside and play!  The first night I downloaded the app, I deleted it, because nothing was happening while I sat sedentary on the couch.  Once I went outside, I realized how fun the scavenger hunt could be, kind of like geocaching with less navigation.  I've struggled with finding motivation to work out, and Pokemon Go actually seduced me into going to my local park to jog actual MILES, pausing for Pokemon if I happened upon them.  I see groups of kids on bikes, or running through parks, having the kind of active summer I remember having as a kid.  I see self-deprecating adults waving at each other, sheepishly admitting we're having fun.  People are rediscovering their cities in a new way.   As a friend on Twitter put it, we don’t stop playing games because we grow old.  We grow old because we stop playing games.

I'm SO keeping track on MapMyFitness because exercise, yo.

  • It brings people together.  If I had a dollar for every story of a sullen teenager suddenly interacting with their parent who is playing, or every kid who used to be sedentary who is outside clocking 6+ miles a day, I'd probably be able to buy some Pokecoins.  I personally have met some fun people while playing, many of them seemingly normal adults like me who laugh about it.  We catch a monster, then we talk.  It's more social than any social media I've seen, to be honest.  I'm meeting people I didn't even know lived in my community, face-to-face.  All ages, all races, all creeds.  Talk about real-life networking.  I'm waiting to hear about the romances that spin off these kinds of interactions too!  The game now has more users than Tinder.

Look, I acknowledge the bad stories that have been going around the internet about this game, because we live in America and dumb people do dumb things.  Yes, I think it’s dumb to go to a Pokestop lure at 2am and not be aware enough to notice people staking you out to rob you, or walk into traffic playing a game, or climbing a tree thinking you’ll find a Pokemon…  This is just natural selection at its best, people.  The herd will thin itself out, this is just a vehicle like everything else.  SITUATIONAL AWARENESS AND COMMON SENSE.  Don’t play in hallowed places like a memorial or the Holocaust Museum, have some damn respect.  Don’t play at work, you’re an adult, you gotta pay the bills.  Don't ignore your spouse, your children, your family.

But this isn't any different from another fandom.  Some people just take it too far.

For me, the game is a fun little escape that doesn't take over my life.  I still have one, and if you don't believe me, let's chat.  Because everyone has a life, and they're entitled to their fandom.  What makes us weird makes us different, and what makes us different makes us richer.

P.S.  I do find this meme below to be funny.  Because the funniest things are based in the truth.

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