It was a lovely summer's day in New York City, and I was walking around the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with friends. The birds were chirping, the bees were buzzing, and just as I was about to point out a particularly stunning species of rose, my friend Grant yelled, "Quick, Michael—there's an Eevee over there!" and they illegally (probably) charged through the flowers to capture it. I had already spent the morning expressing my grievances with the latest gaming obsession, so they spent the rest of the afternoon whispering Pokémon status updates to each other as I loudly and repeatedly proclaimed how beautiful nature is.
Now before we continue, I will state the most base appreciation of Pokémon Go: the technology is impressive, and the interaction it encourages between the virtual world and the real world is a concept worth applauding. I will also have you know that countless hours of my childhood were spent catching Ditto on Nintendo 64's Pokémon Snap, I was constantly fighting with my sisters over the family Game Boy to play Pokémon Red, and I had a friendship-ending feud with my next-door neighbor over a holographic Ninetails card—so I'm not a complete rookie. But I grew up.
A Pokémon Go player is nearly hit by a car while attempting to capture a Spearow. Video courtesy of Maroinus Gaming/YouTube
Pokémon Go is the kind of craze that, when observed from afar, is actually quite frightening. As an average, nongaming human, first you hear a brief mention or two about it the day it launches, and then you watch in horror as it snowballs into an all-consuming force that ruthlessly takes over your entire Twitter feed, and then your Facebook feed, and then people begin Instagramming their Snaps and Tweeting their Instagrams. It's a vicious cycle and there's no escaping it.
"Is there anything you don't like about Pokémon Go?" I text my friend group between screenshots of them finding a Krabby on their hotel bed in Los Angeles ("I caught krabs in my hotel room!" my friend Liam jokes) and heartwarming articles about people finding love through Pokémon Go (sweet, but like, c'mon now). "I hate how it makes me walk into oncoming traffic," Liam answers. "I hate how it makes me walk," my friend Anthony chimes in. "I hate how it's all I can think about now. Everything I do revolves around Pokémon," texts Grant. After a few soul-searching, self-reflecting seconds, he adds, "I was at a Manhattanhenge party the other night, and I left it to run down the block because I saw a Squirtle was nearby. What am I becoming??" No, Grant. What are we becoming?
As the absurd stories pile up—Dead bodies found! Traffic jams caused! It's a government surveillance conspiracy! #DontCatchEmAllAndDrive hashtag created by the NYPD!—one actually begins to question the very fabric of humanity. Is this what it all comes down to? Is this the ultimate intersection of technology and the human race in the 21st century? People argue that it's getting everyone out of their homes to explore new parts of their city they never knew before—which is great! But what saddens me is the fact that it took a pixelated, made-up creature named Mewtwo to get us there.
While I will continue to collide with grown men suddenly stopping for Pokémon on my way to work, and be subject to friends' self-congratulatory Facebook posts on their latest catches, I hope that as a society we retain the sense of adventure and companionship we've found through Pokémon Go but learn to apply it in our everyday lives—face-to-face with other humans and away from our phones. Because no, you really don't have to catch them all.
Sweet editors chime in:
"If Pokémon Go is another way to be antisocial with your screen, just in a new setting, then I hope it goes away quickly." –Christian Storm, photo editor, @cstorm44
"My time is valuable! It could be spent doing much more important things like reading a book, or complaining about how many people around me are playing Pokémon Go." –Abbey Maxbauer, editorial intern, @abbeymaxbauer
"I'm glad this is getting everyone outdoors, but let's not pretend that this won't lead to more car crashes and people falling out of trees and such. It all seems so dangerous! But then again, so does Tinder." –Chanel Parks, assistant editor, @chanelinezp
"I have been bumped into by five adults in the past 24 hours because they are playing Pokémon Go while walking" –Catherine Fuentes, managing editor, @cat_fuentes