Thou Shalt Catch Them All
Six months ago, if you had a grown adult wearing a t-shirt with a children’s character crash into you in a public place because they had their face buried in a cell phone screen and weren’t’ paying attention to their surroundings, odds were pretty good they were just using Duolingo to practice a language of no practical value, like Esperanto or Klingon. But now, they’re almost certainly playing Pokémon GO, the exciting new augmented-reality dogfighting normalizer from Nintendo of America.
What is Pokémon GO?
It is a mobile game based on the venerable “Pokémon” franchise, in which young persons capture monsters and train them to fight one another for their profit and amusement. The word “Pokémon” is a sort of portmanteau of “pocket monster”, a term borrowed by creator Satoshi Tajiri from his neighbor, the bass guitarist for a hair metal band, who used it to describe his generative organ.
How is it different from other fighting games?
In Pokémon GO, players collect the various monsters, who have names like Pikachu, Scyther, and Rodney Allen Rippy, by wandering out into the real world and locating them. This distinguishes it from most video games, which can be played merely by waking up and moving as far as the location of your cell phone. Its requirement that you display the most basic amount of motility has led some people to praise it for encouraging physical exercise amongst the increasingly sedentary American population, while others have criticized it for being inaccessible for the physically disabled. The general consensus as of this writing is that people will complain about pretty much anything.
So, wait, you have to go places to get the Pokey monsters? Like, leave your apartment?
You don’t have an apartment. You live with your mother.
No, my mother lives with me. It’s because my credit rating…look, that’s not important. Answer the question.
Yes. Finding Pokémon requires you to leave the place where your Spaghetti-Os cache is and go out to sunlit areas. This has caused all sorts of problems: some locations, such as the Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz, and the September 11th Memorial, have objected to playing the game in such somber surroundings, apparently oblivious to the millions of teen boys who have had boners during field trips to their sacred grounds prior to the development of Pokémon GO. Others have pointed out the safety risks involved in people driving, hanging around railroad tracks, which does seem important until you consider the fact that being hit by a train while trying to catch a Swampert is about the funniest way you can die. Other complaints have involved gangs of criminals luring players into secluded areas with the promise of rare Pokémon, only to rob them; all I can say to that is, if you support the police, you owe them the big laugh they’re going to get out of hearing that story.
I am too timid to install Pokémon GO. Walk me through the process.
Well, first you download it from the Apple store and are unable to install it for several hours because the servers have crashed again. Then a scientist whose name is probably Dr. Lipcreep or something shows up out of nowhere and presses you into service as his unpaid intern. Your job is to go around collecting these Pokémon for Dr. Lipcreep, who is studying them, and, in a surprising departure from the scientific method, when he’s off doing something else, you get to take them to arenas and make them fight each other.
By the way, you are not you. You are represented in the game by one of two icons — a ridiculous-looking man in Japanese biker drag, or a ridiculous-looking woman in Japanese biker drag. Even though they are clearly within a binary male/female dichotomy, Wikipedia informs me that this development was praised by ‘genderfluid groups’ because you are choosing a ‘style’ and not a ‘gender’. This is the sort of thing Wikipedia does now, I guess. Anyway, you get to pick stuff like what color wetsuit your icon is wearing and what name you would like to give it were that name not already taken by the 612 million other people already playing Pokémon GO.
Finally, you’re ready to play the game! You do this by, let’s say, meeting your girlfriend at the coffeeshop, to be entirely hypothetical because we all know you don’t have a girlfriend and you only drink Mountain Dew Baja Blast and chocolate milk in plastic containers shaped like superheroes. Anyway, you walk — yes, I know, but for the sake of the argument let’s just say you walk — to the coffeeshop, and along the way, you look at shit through your cell phone, and it shows you that across the street, at that scary store that sells wigs for children, there is a Darumaka hanging out in an old couch infested with bedbugs. It is your job to ‘catch’ the Darumaka by throwing an imaginary ball at it.
Wait, that’s it? How do you make the creatures fight each other? Is there training? What can you win?
Beats me. I got bored at this point and deleted the app from my phone. I assume you go on to the coffeeshop and your girlfriend leaves you for dicking around with space alligators on your phone all the time.
So what you’re saying is that our entire world, everywhere we go, is infested with violent, combat-happy monsters who can only be controlled through enslavement, and who have been here all the time, waiting for us to develop sufficient technology to notice them.
Yeah, that’s the size of it. It’s pretty horrifying if you think about it, so probably best not to.
But they’re not really there. This augmented-reality stuff, it’s just pictures on a screen added by a program. Right?
Sadly, yes. This allows you to ‘experience’ a world that doesn’t really exist, leading you to go outside among the wonders of nature and the vast majesty of human creation while never actually looking at it at all, ignoring the boundless wonders of the world around you in favor of trying to spot a Japanese cartoon mushroom-thing underneath a dumpster. It’s an amazing way to look at something very intensely while never quite seeing it, like the Most Photographed Barn in America in Don DeLillo’s White Noise.
That’s a pretty pretentious reference for a joke review of Pokémon GO, isn’t it?
Go hurl a Pokéball, fanboy.