"Pokemon Go" Gets Inside Workbar
“It took Michelle Obama 8 years to convince kids to go outside and be active. Nintendo did it in 24 hours.” – Internet meme. Unless something unthinkable happens, the apex of human achievement will be this summer’s augmented reality game "Pokemon Go". If you’re just tuning in, then you should know that the unthinkable has already happened: 90’s Pokemania has been resurrected and a game with little cartoon animals has spawned a virtual goose chase through the great outdoors, as viewed through a smartphone.
Put simply, this game is like a mashup of google maps and a hallucination: your phone’s GPS and its clock team up with the game to make certain things “appear” for you to collect or interact with. Much of the real-world data in the game builds upon a 2012 game called Ingress, onto which the designers added the iconic Pokemon cartoons. If this idea seems too lame, then you’re evidently too old, because "Pokemon Go" has cut across cultures and demographics at a staggering pace, predicted to become more widely used than Twitter very soon. To the uninitiated, it is insane and inane and … enigmatic enough to spark a little curiosity, maybe even a free download. To the devotees, it is an addictive combination of augmented fantasy, physical activity, and social competition.
To me, the whole thing smacked of an inside joke, and I was determined to be let in, or despise it. So through the Workbar discussion board I asked if any Pokemon (Pokemen? Pokepeople?) had been spotted around the network locations. Understanding that our coworking space is, after all, a place where great people come to work on big ideas, I hoped that one or two tech-savvy entrepreneurs had found time to squander on this game, and share their insights with me.
“I am a mature adult with no time for such frivolity and I am shocked anyone would engage in such a thing,” replied Dan Scarnecchia, health care consultant, before adding, “Anyway, I found a Drowzee on my desk the other day and a Rattata behind the bush up in the mezzanine.” He followed up with screenshots as photographic evidence.
Organizational Coordinator Amy Saenger chimed in, too. “I caught a CP154 Drowzee down in the Café this morning.” Before I finished reading her email, another one popped up. “Add a Krabby to that list- a new one!”
Just when I thought this was starting to get interesting, comic writer and photographer Ian Struckhoff hinted at something both predatory and enticing. “I set up a lure at Workbar Union on Sunday, but then I got distracted by work, so I didn’t catch any monsters. There seems to be a lot of hubbub around Union Square, around the Porter/Market basket end of the square, and up at Prospect Hill Park.”
Apparently there is method to this madness, and some locations are quite hot for hunting. As another member explained, “Mass. Ave. near Cambridge had been consistently good. It appears that areas of high foot traffic are good. At Workbar itself I have not seen anything.”
That’s what Amy Saenger’s dog does anyway, while her owner plays the game. “I take a lot of walks with my dog,” she said, describing what attracted her to the game in the first place. “It gives me something to do while he inevitably stops to sniff every bush/ tree/plant/rock he comes across. And the social/competition aspect of it with friends isn’t so bad, either.”
Dan Scarnecchia, amateur "Pokemon Go" photographer, shared what drew him to the game, “The hype on my Facebook and Twitter feed, mostly. I’ve never really been into Pokemon, but I had dabbled with Niantic’s previous game, Ingress. Right now it’s kind of fun to wander around and fill out the Pokedex.” I feel compelled to add here that Dan is an outdoorsy guy, comfortable with goats and drones and stuff. He didn't need this game to get him off the couch, or get friends, but he admits, “I’m fascinated by the social phenomeon it is becoming. I think it’s already surpassed Twitter in numbers of active users. That’s crazy!”
“We almost got hit by several cars on the first day!” confided Jessie, from the programming school Launch Academy. Their whole team got hooked on the game last week, way ahead of the curve. Jessie’s brush with death is typical of most of the game’s bad press, all of which stems from the side effects of walking around the world with only one foot in reality. You could stumble upon an actual cadaver [Game over?]; you might get robbed at gunpoint; there’s even an outside chance that this whole thing is part of a Psyop Conspiracy.
To answer the question of “Why play?” one Workbar member was kind enough to leave me with this: “Because we’re grown ups now, and it’s our turn to decide what that means.”
Because on a long enough timeline, all games must come to an end.
[Update: 7/12/16 23:50 An earlier draft of this blog stated the name of "Pokemon Go" as Pokemon Go. Since then, the AP Stylebook tweeted their official guide to the spelling of the game. Quotes have been added to reflect the official pronouncement.]
Photo Credits: Daniel Scarnecchia
About the Author: Dave Gentry is a fan of progress and recess. He believes in Olde English, new fortune cookies, and he answers to #davertido.
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