You knew this blog post was coming, didn't ya? I'm sure I'll catch some heat for saying this, but Pokemon Go is a stupid game. Go ahead: call me old, outdated, antiquated, ignorant, whatever. The fact remains that when you need a mobile video game to entice people to actually go outside and get some exercise, something is kind of off with the world.
In case you're wondering what Pokemon Go is, it's a "location-based augmented reality game" (thanks, Wikipedia) designed by Niantic for mobile devices. As of July 11, the game had been downloaded 7.5 million times. A user's phone coordinates its GPS system with the game to place Pokemon characters in indoor and outdoor settings for players to "catch." They look for Pokemon characters to collect by viewing the world through their mobile phone or tablet, and in the process end up falling off of cliffs, walking onto highways, crashing into police cruisers, or violating historical settings.
If you thought I was kidding about that last sentence, all of those incidents actually occurred within a week or two of the game's release last month. You can look them up.
Yes, Pokemon Go is one way to get the blood flowing, Unfortunately, it was also a can of worms waiting to open and seems to be making the news nearly every day -- not for something good, mind you, unless you count the dead body that a teenage girl found in a Wyoming lake.
Look, I was a video game addict when the Atari 2600 (yes, I'm showing my age here) was released. Suddenly I left the world of Barbies and Easy Bake ovens behind and entered the cubism world of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Q-Bert, among others. I also played with my friend's Intellivision at her house and we made trips to the local arcade. I still remember getting callouses on my left palm where the corner of the joystick box rested. My nieces and nephews grew up with Nintendo and Super Mario Bros.
But thankfully, time away from video games was still time interacting with the real world back then. My parents made sure I turned off the console and went outside. I can see where defenders of Pokemon Go would argue that the game's structure gets people to go outside and physically move their bodies. The problem is, they're not truly paying attention to the world through their tiny screens. They're walking around practically blind and not paying attention to the street, oncoming traffic, or anyone else. In mid July, two young men tumbled 50 feet down a San Diego area cliff while playing the game. Geez. I could see if one guy came close to the edge and his friend stopped him in time, but two people were so consumed with chasing after fictional characters that they both fell off? Just let that sink in for a minute.
In the Boston area, there's a new Meetup group devoted to getting together to play the game. So now socializing and human bonding can't happen for some of these folks unless they're tethered to their smartphones. There are 256 members so far, and many of them look like rejected extras from The Big Bang Theory.
Another problem with Pokemon Go is that it's enticing many users to play the game in areas where frankly, it's disrespectful and inappropriate. The Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz, and Arlington National Cemetery asked Niantic to remove their locations from the game's software. Said Andrew Hollinger, The Holocaust Museum's communications director, "Technology can be an important learning tool, but this game falls far outside our educational and memorial mission."
How sad is it that these kids didn't already know that it might not be a good idea to go Picachu hunting in the gas chambers? Nintendo and Niantic are also being sued by a New Jersey man that claims a number of Pokemon Go players have trespassed his property in an effort to "catch them all." (He gives new meaning to the phrase, "Get off my lawn!")
Even sadder, I feel that Pokemon Go is just the beginning of mobile apps and games that are designed to take humans farther and father away from reality and interacting with others. How far down the rabbit hole -- or a cliff -- will people allow themselves to be led?