Ev­ery­one’s play­ing Poké­mon Go, right?

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE GQ - Nick Smith ED­I­TOR IN CHIEF

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.

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