Everyone’s playing Pokémon Go, right?
Are you a Pombie? You know, one of the thousands of people suddenly in a zombielike state in the pursuit of catching Pokémon through the wildly successful AR app Pokémon Go? July 4 might be considered Independence Day, but July 6, 2016 will go down in history as the day that Pokémon returned to Earth’s consciousness to invade human beings’ spatial awareness and send them off into the streets, head down, eyes squarely fixed on their mobile device – each drawn to their park, post office or pub in search of cute little critters. You can tell a craze has taken over when the world’s digital news outlets can’t get enough of covering it – because they know the world’s population is googling it with an unbelievable fervour. We saw a similar obsession with Jarryd Hayne, the professional football-code-hopper. There was a time, late last year, when the sight of Hayne wearing his cap backwards would unleash endless analysis on what that meant, from the weather to the global economy and everything in between. Ditto with Kim Kardashian-west. In fact, if it wasn’t for KKW’S internet-breaking smackdown of that other global fascination, Taylor Swift, and the epic cliffhanger of whether she did or didn’t agree to Kanye calling her a ‘bitch’, then Pokémon Go would’ve been the biggest digital traffic driver in July – with every news item delivering a link to the same Poké-cult. ‘Man gets car-jacked while playing Pokémon Go in unsavoury area of Sydney’. ‘Teen girl robs bank – it was believed she was playing Pokémon Go earlier that day’. ‘Turnbull about-faces on decision to back Rudd for UN Secretary General following consultation with cabinet and a morning walk playing Pokémon Go’. I must admit that the images of hordes of Pombies, as portrayed by the digital media, were fascinating. After years of digitards moaning about the isolating and hibernating nature of social and digital media, a mobile phenomenon came along with an incredible ability to get people off their couches and into common areas, en masse, with a common goal to go out and ‘catch ’em all’. Now, given that I wasn’t a big gamer in my youth – beyond feverishly jigging the joystick back and forth to try and beat my cousin at discus in the Commodore 64 version of Summer Games – I missed the original, late ’90s Nintendo-fuelled craze around Pokémon. It’s interesting to note that 90 per cent (according to science website phys.org) of all Pokémon Go downloads are from people between
the ages of 18 and 34, and many fondly remember playing the original, watching the animated series or collecting all 150 of the miniature characters the first time around. And you have to think, if the game were called anything but Pokémon Go, would it be so popular? Pretty sure ‘Isis Go’ wouldn’t be as catchy. Now that Pokémon Go has more users in Australia than Twitter, psychologists have taken to explaining the popularity as a good old dose of nostalgia – a nostalgic mood said to have a warming effect on an individual’s wellbeing and interaction with others. And, contrary to my Pombie description of the craze, it seems nostalgia for Pokémon is causing strangers to interact, due to the positive and common memory of the game. Damn, I thought I was entering Pombie into the modernday vernacular, like metrosexual. So, in the interest of not knocking it until I tried it, I downloaded the app and got Poking. I have to admit – I’m hooked. Firstly, everybody looks better as an Anime avatar. In fact, they look damn cool. That said, while the app does encourage you to hike outdoors to parks and interesting landmarks to capture Pokémon, Pokéstops, where you go to refuel Poké balls (yes, there’s a lot of ‘Poké’ talk involved), seem to be at pubs and fast food restaurants. Maybe that’s why 18 to 34-year-olds are into it. I recommend not trying to play the game while attempting your morning run, as it does tend to have you veering off course, into people’s gardens or, worse still, traffic. Playing on the walk to work, I can see why people are happy to partake in packs. A man in a suit with a briefcase, intermittently – and almost spasmodically – forcing his phone into pedestrians’ personal space does not make for a good look. There is, however, an understanding smile from other ‘Go’ers who’ve passed the newbie stage of the craze. This penchant for nostalgia is something of a global trend. Just look at the popularity of the Marvel Universe franchise, Star Wars and rebooted Ghostbusters (Hey, I thought it was pretty good). And last year, you may have noticed that colouring books for adults swamped best-seller lists; your sought-after issue of GQ a little difficult to find at the airport Newslink, wedged behind piles of colour pencils and Secret Garden books marketed to sophisticated travellers under the guise that each pencil stroke was a pursuit of ‘mindfulness’, ‘stress-reduction’ and ‘colouring away anxiety’. Really? I tried one of those books and wound up even more stressed after spending hours of my life trying to complete a full ‘mandala’, when I could have been doing something more productive, like paying the gas bill, going to the gym or counting the number of wool fibres in my jumper. The New Yorker recently said that the adult pursuit of nostalgic or childhood activities has gone far enough in the US to create a new sales sub-category called the ‘Peter Pan market’. It’s spawned Summer Camps for adults where one can take a ‘Digital Detox’ and, in Brooklyn, you can attend ‘Preschool Mastermind’ – where affluent adults actually pay up to $1300 for a series of weekly classes that give you permission to commandeer a UHU stick and glitter pot and have a craft-off with other ‘nostalgists’, take naptime and pose for class photos. Well, considering Donald Trump is the Republican Presidential nominee, I’m not as dumbfounded as I might otherwise be, but I do think nostalgia’s gone too far. I have a fond association with skinny jeans, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pour my middle-aged behind back into them.