The guy, holding his iPhone, was standing still and swiping the screen in quick motions. Then he suddenly smiled and started walking again, moving the iPhone around in a circular motion, as if he was looking for something. The phone would vibrate as he supposedly got closer to his prey, although it wasn’t an exact science. Using the built-in radar system, he was finally able to find what he was looking for, and once again, began swiping at the screen before quickly walking away to his next target, which was some distance away, in the park. Now, if you thought that this was back in 2012 and it the British spy searching for magic data rocks in a Russian park, then you would be wrong. This man was playing Pokémon Go, the newest and hottest game taking the world by storm.
If you are asking yourself, what a Pokémon is, Vox has the answer for you when it wrote – “Around 1990, a video game designer named Satoshi Tajiri began hammering out the concept of Pokémon, which combined his childhood hobby of insect collecting with his love for video games.” The article noted — “The word Pokémon itself is the Americanized/Westernized contraction of "pocket monsters" — which, yes, can sound sort of inappropriate — and the original first-person game centered on a young trainer capturing 151 different types of Pokémon, ranging from ones that vaguely resemble turtles (Squirtle) to humanoid ones (Jynx) to the most recognizable Pokémon in the world, Pikachu.” Later in the 90s, a cartoon was released, and quickly became very popular. In fact, the card game is so popular, that Nintendo reported that — “the Pokémon enterprise raked in 1.5bn a year”.
In fact, Pokemon is so popular that Forbes writes — “the game has garnered 21 million active daily users, edging past Candy Crush Saga's 20 million peak active user count in the US. The data also shows that Pokémon GO is on track to surpass Snapchat's active daily user numbers on Android devices within a couple days. Furthermore, Pokémon GO has become more searched on Google than the word "porn".” That’s right. Apparently, to paraphrase the famous John Lennon quote — “Pokémon has become more popular than God”.
The newest incarnation of Pokémon, known as Pokémon Go, is an app that can be downloaded to your phone. The Verge explained it by writing — “Pokémon Go is an augmented reality mobile game that overlays a virtual world over our real one, letting players travel to locations in their cities and towns, catch the virtual creatures, and battle them against one another. Pokéstops can be at any location really, from cafes and parks to monuments and graffiti walls. Gyms are less common, and are typically at notable land marks.” The idea, it seems, is that Pokemon Go will force people to get out into the real world to play the game, while the company makes some money in the process. In fact, some comedians joked that in one day, Nintendo was able to get more people to exercise than the entire US government over the course of decades.
And speaking of getting out and land marks and of riding the popularity train, Verge wrote — “As if the surreal events surrounding the stratospheric spread of Pokémon Go could not get any more ludicrous, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is holding a campaign event at a Pokémon Go gym. The area is Madison Park in Lakewood, OH, and it doubles as a Pokéstop as well.” In fact, her campaign website reads — “Join us as we go to the Pokéstop in Madison Park and put up a lure module, get free Pokémon, and battle each other while you register voters and learn more about Sec. Hillary Clinton!!! Kids welcome!"
Not to be outdone, Donald Trump came up with his own take. The Verge continued by writing — “In an unsurprising twist, the campaign behind presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump appears to have been working on its own Pokémon Go plug. In a video posted to Trump's official Facebook page, some sorry members of the team's graphics department put together a 16-second attack ad with the phrase "Crookéd Hillary No" next to a smartphone screen displaying Clinton as a Pokémon getting caught. In keeping with the nauseating hat tips to in-game lore, Clinton is a "career politician" type and evolves into "unemployed." At lot of things could probably said about Trump, but at least no one can accuse him of not having a sense of humor.
Although the world is currently enamored with Pokémon Go, the real story is that it is the first mainstream game to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. This is a moment in time very similar to what Malcom Gladwell described in his book “Tipping Point”. In that book, he described a tipping point as — "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point". There have been several tipping points in the last decade — the introduction of social media, the smartphone and hi-speed internet. In fact, try speaking to anyone from the West younger than 30, they probably can’t remember a time before smartphones and Facebook and they literally grew up on the internet. The new Pokémon virtual reality game is that next step forward. And what comes next? The easy answer, of course, the next version of Google glass, the eventual internet connected contact lens, the implanted chip and eventually, the singularity.
This past week has been massive for several different reasons. The terrorist attack in Dallas saw the police use an attack robot that blew up the suspect without a trial or a jury or a due process of the law. This is the start of the Robocop or a Judge Dredd where police are “empowered to summarily arrest, convict, sentence, and execute criminals.” The release of Pokémon Go, a massive mainstream game that will forever change the way that people and more importantly, the next generation, interacts with reality.
So, what do you think dear listeners — “Are the lines in society becoming blurred even more?”