The World Needs a Hero

I still look around to make sure no one is watching before I check my phone to see if any Pocket Monsters are nearby, even as I take the long way to the store to get lunch in order to hatch my eggs. Half the world playing and for some reason I still make efforts to avoid admitting publicly that, apparently, I actually like this silly-ass game.

Maybe because it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Originally I downloaded the game, ironically, as a means of keeping myself occupied on my long commute by bus. I downloaded it onto my phone, caught a few critters in an around my living room and then set it aside until the next morning. I told my wife she should look into it because, admittedly, the little monsters were cute and she likes cute things so I thought she might have some fun just collecting them. She, reluctantly, downloaded it as well.

The following morning as I walked to the bus stop I loaded up my Slacker music station, as I do every morning, and then logged on to the Pokemon app. As soon as I touched the button, my music stopped and my ears were accosted by the terrifying cacophony of horns and beeps that is the Pokemon title music. Seconds later the app was uninstalled from my phone.  It had committed the cardinal sin by forcing me to listen to it rather than the music I wanted to listen to.

The bus can be a tough mode of transportation fraught with its own trials and tribulations. I can accept waiting around for a missed transfer, I can accept the bus being so full that I have to stand, I can accept being mushed against a wall like a sardine by a dude without the presence of mind to realize that maybe he’s a little too big for the seat, I can even accept a complete stranger falling asleep with their head on my shoulder. I can put up with a lot… But I will not tolerate being forced to listen to Pokemon music. So set was I in this state of mind that I, publicly, proclaimed the game “dead to me.”

A day and a half later though, something happened. I don’t recall exactly the precise series of events which led to me re-downloading the game, but somehow in conversation my wife and I came to the conclusion that this silly-ass game could maybe encourage us to pursue our mutual desire to just get out of the house a little more.  This was Friday night.

The following day we went to Sealife Park and while there, during lulls in the moving from show to show we both tinkered with the app and caught a Pidgey here, an Ekans there, sort of just learning the mechanics, how Pokestops worked, etc. On our way home we stopped for dinner and the shopping center had a pair of Pokestops that we migrated between for a while after we ate. Then we headed for home… Or so I thought.

Suddenly the two of us are bouncing all over the neighborhood visiting Pokestops, locating gyms, declaring teams, sizing up the competition… Next thing I know it’s nearly midnight on Saturday night and I’m chasing a Psyduck around the parking lot. The following day became a Pokemon-fueled tour of the island, we visited Green World Farms (which hosts a gym and a Pokestop) and hunted for Eevees among the coffee bushes. We went to historic Haleiwa and chased Ratata through town. Then it was off to our favorite unnamed beach only to discover it’s a prime location for catching Magikarp! So we laid on the beach, did some swimming, ate some sandwiches, hunted Pokemon and went home exhausted.

Ultimately it was a really fun weekend, but it didn’t stop there. Monday night we went to the park up the hill from our house and walked circles until dark, hitting the nearby Pokestop for supplies with each passing. Tuesday night we went down the hill into the more populated area, among the restaurants and shopping centers and parks and libraries there were, literally, hundreds of people all walking back and forth along the same stretch of road which happened to be dotted with Pokestops, each of which bore a Lure attracting Pocket Monsters from far and wide. It was such a strange site to see all these people, most of them strangers, all enjoying the same activity… But not in isolation. They were talking to each other, giving tips on where to find what and comparing and conversing until well after the sun went down on a stretch of road which is typically barren on weeknights.

My wife though, made the most profound observation. “Look at all these people,” she said, “They’re all happy.”

And she was right. Every single person down there, young, old or somewhere in between had a smile on their face; and that felt good to see. With the prior week being marred with Police brutality, protests, violence against police, and what some vocally hope to be a budding revolution, here is Pokemon GO universally putting smiles on the faces of everyone playing it.

Considering the release version of the game was 0.29.01 and it being plagued with server issues, and lacking basic features like trading; I can’t help but wonder if someone over at Nintendo or Niantic didn’t look at the state of the nation and say, “Is it playable? Good. Release it now. The world needs Pikachu.”

So, yeah… I like Pokemon GO. It’s fun. It puts a smile on my face.

Oh! Right… The irony I mentioned. Even though I sorted out the music issue, because of the way the game works; tracks your movements, an speed and the locations that the Pokemon actually spawn in, it’s next to useless on the bus.