Tuesday 27 September 2016

Pokemoning its way to world domination... but it's worth it

Pokemon Go may lead to a New World Order, but at least it will get the kids out of the house, writes Carol Hunt

Published 17/07/2016 | 02:30

BIG HUNT GAMERS: Carol Hunt and daughter Sophie about to get nose-deep in their phones as they set off Pokemoning. Photo: Gerry Mooney
BIG HUNT GAMERS: Carol Hunt and daughter Sophie about to get nose-deep in their phones as they set off Pokemoning. Photo: Gerry Mooney
The Pokemon Go app launch screen
Pokemon Go players in downtown Miami.
Kevin Donoghue and his girlfriend Linda Barber see what pokemon they can find around Grand Canal Dock.

Thankfully I didn't fall over a cliff or stumble on any dead bodies in my demented search for entities that don't materially exist. Though I did find myself coming to consciousness in the middle of a busy road when an irate motorist alerted me to the imminent danger of my being hit by his Range Rover.

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Nope, I haven't suddenly found religion or joined a cult, but something much more frustrating and potentially mind-controlling. I was "playing" Pokemon Go. I first heard about this new augmented reality game from my daughter, when we arrived at the airport to collect her brother the other day.

"Damn," she said, staring into her phone as we went down an elevator. "I don't think Pokemon Go knows where I am, how can that be possible?" "Who?" I asked, innocently wondering if she had acquired some sort of social media troll who was demanding to know where she was at every moment of the day. I wasn't far wrong.

She's been engaged in the new Pokemon Go "real world" adventure game for the past few days and is now addicted to catching Pikachu's and Ghastly's little Pokemon. Her brother hasn't seen any of us for 12 days but the first question he has for his sister is an urgent "Did you bring it?" She nods and surreptitiously pushes a phone into his hand. Within minutes, he's trying to pretend online that he's living in the USA in order to download the Pokemon Go app. Even in the mountains of Poland, camping with the scouts, with no wifi or mobile devices, he had heard about Pidgeys and Pokestops. "Show me," I say.

The Pokemon Go app launch screen
The Pokemon Go app launch screen

Now, of course, I wish I hadn't. First of all, I have to go through the embarrassment of having my children explain to me how simple it is to pretend to be living in a different country in order to download an app which isn't available in your own country yet (from this weekend it is). I wondered what other sites they've managed to illegally log on to - Homeland Security?

"This is your avatar," explains my daughter.

"I know what an avatar is," I say, defensively. "I use them all the time." She ignores me. "And through Google Maps, it knows where exactly you are and tells you where you can find Pokemon," she says.

"It knows exactly where I am?" I don't like the sound of that. She rolls her eyes. "The premise is that there are all kinds [150] of Pokemon hiding in our real world and we need to get out and about and find them."

"So, are there any here?" I look around the sitting room like a complete eejit. "Not here, no," she says. "Though I did wake up the other morning and there was one in my bedroom."

"How do we find them?" I ask brightly, determined to get into the spirit of things. "We walk," she says, simply. "Where?" "Anywhere?" "But why?" "To find Pokemon, of course." "And where are they?" "How do I know?" she says. "The phone will vibrate when they're nearby." "The phone will wha? How will the phone know?"

Pokemon Go players in downtown Miami.
Pokemon Go players in downtown Miami.

I haven't even left the house and I'm already lost.

So out we go and head off down the street. "Now see, at the end of the road?" she says. I look but I don't see anything. "On the screen," she adds, impatiently.

"Sorry, I thought you said the end of the road…" "Yes I did, here" - she points to the screen - "here, at the end of the road!"

On the screen I can see my avatar moving along my street to the end of the road "where there's a PokeStop!" she says, triumphantly.

"A wha?" "A PokeStop. It's where you can get free stuff like potions and Pokeballs and Pokemon eggs." We get to the PokeStop, she spins a circle yoke on the phone - a Pokeball - and little bubbles start floating about. She's delighted that we get an egg which she puts in an incubator. She tells me that if we walk long enough, the egg will hatch and she will add it to her Pokedex.

We keep walking. Halfway down the road we see another young man looking at his phone, oblivious to his surroundings. "He's Pokemoning too," says the daughter, handing me the phone. I now understand why I've been seeing people, nose-deep in phones, nearly getting themselves killed crossing roads in the past few days. They were on the trail of Sandshrews.

Kevin Donoghue and his girlfriend Linda Barber see what pokemon they can find around Grand Canal Dock.
Kevin Donoghue and his girlfriend Linda Barber see what pokemon they can find around Grand Canal Dock.

Ten minutes later, excited at the prospect of a Pokemon nearby, I do just that myself, and find myself apologising to a motorist who barely managed to avoid me as I stood, oblivious, in the middle of the traffic, eyes glued to my phone. I'd had enough.

Pokemon Go was too much of a dangerous sport for my liking. Even though you do get exercise doing it, it can also involve going over cliffs, entering churches during funerals, and walking in front of the weather man while he's doing the weather report (as happened on US TV).

Another issue is that Pokemon Go requires you to give it full access to your location and camera and to your Google account - and all that's in it. Which is why some people think it's a ploy for a New World Order to take over. Which could be true, but as both my kids are out searching for Pokemon instead of torturing me about how bored they are this rainy summer, I reckon it's worth it.

Sunday Independent

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