PokemonGo: a key to another universe

Ira Lazo,

I am proud to say that I am one of the 9.5 million users gleefully wandering around in city parks and libraries trying to catch all of the Pokemon who magically appear in the area using my smart phone.

The PokemonGo craze has swept the Internet up in a storm, because it’s allowed many millennials to reconnect and reminisce with an old childhood fantasy. As I’m catching these creatures, I tiptoe the line between reality and fantasy as I’m transported back to happier days.

PokemonGo is the love child of Nintendo and San Francisco-based software development company, Niantic Labs and is an augmented reality mobile game that was released July 6. It has since continued to crush records as the most downloaded mobile app on iTunes and Android market, and it overtook Twitter and Tinder as the most-used app daily in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, where it initially launched, according to TechCrunch, a tech news site.

For those who didn’t grow up watching the show, the word “Pokemon” is short for pocket monsters. The TV series started in 1996 as a Japanese animated television series written by Takeshi Shudo about a ten-year old boy named Ash Ketchum who dreams of becoming the ultimate Pokemon master; a task that takes him around the world to make new human and “animal” friends.

To play the game, you need a smartphone and maybe an external battery, just in case. By using your phone’s GPS location, the game knows where you are in real life. As you walk around to different locations, wild Pokemon appear in real life through the camera and augmented reality. To catch them, you have to flick a red and white pokeball at them, all while keeping one eye on the pedestrians in front of you. The more creatures you catch, the more you level up, and the stronger they evolve so you can ultimately battle with other players, aka trainers, at different gyms.

There’s a sense of urgency as you hunt for the Pokemon in different locations, and businesses have started to take notice. Different PokemonGo urban pub crawls are popping up in San Francisco and Oakland, with one Facebook event attracting at least 50,000 RSVPs on the Facebook event page.

I choose to play PokemonGo despite the criticism of many who say that this app is a distraction from important breaking news, such as this crazy election cycle and the international terrorist attacks. Rather than deal with these issues head on, I’ve found a way to run away and hide in my own world of magical creatures. PokemonGo is a game, an addiction, a key to another world where I can just be a kid again.