Friday, December 23, 2016

On The Hunt

Okay! Wow. I, um ... Huh.

A lot of people read that last post. In this case, "a lot" means it's now my most popular individual post. Which seems a little wrong, chiefly because of the things it surpassed.

I feel like I should find a way to capitalize off this newfound exposure, but I'm a poor capitalist.

Plus right now I really want to talk about Pokemon Go.

... What?

Some time back, I asked someone to explain the game to me. Whether or not she actually saw that post, my explanation came in an unlikely form -- Mia Sorella is an avid player and she was quite excited when I mentioned (in passing) that I might want to check it out. In my data-gathering mind, I found that three of my very favorite people (including said sister) play, and as they are all grown adults that I happen to respect, I started paying a bit more attention.

Then Thanksgiving happened.

... Go Mystic.
The significance here is that (a) by Thanksgiving, I had a new phone that had the capacity for a large storage-eating game, (b) my siblings and I were in the same place, and (c) there was an event going on with the game. These three things converging meant that I got a crash course from two Very Enthusiastic players -- and that I leveled up very quickly.

It's a very effective way to get hooked.

If you haven't heard of it ... where do you live?

Wait, let's try that again.

If you haven't heard of it, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game that uses your location to put little pocket monsters (yes, that's the name's origin) in front of you for you to catch and collect. Straightforward enough. Pokestops (churches, statues, historical sites, places of interest) give you chances to collect the things that let you catch said monsters. Gyms let you participate in fights to gain more points. Walking gives you credits toward growing (evolving) your monsters so they make better fighters.

The more you catch, the more points you have. The higher your level, the better your evolutions. And so on and so forth. All of the parts and pieces build on each other, like an IKEA dining room set (complete with less-than-explicit instructions).

With me so far?

Those are the basics. There are, of course, additional layers -- eggs to hatch, gym tactics, piles of things I haven't discovered yet -- but in the beginning, there are monsters to catch and balls to throw at them. That's what you need to know.

Before Thanksgiving, I thought it was a little silly.

Pokemon, as a craze, was after my time. The TV show, the trading cards -- that hit about the time my brother was the right age for it, and as such I've always associated it with kids. [And my high school youth leader, but that's a different story.] This wasn't a game aimed at me.

Then I started to see things.

Downtown Rapid City is usually a fairly popular spot -- but in August (after the game had been out for a month) I realized I saw people everywhere. Teenagers hanging out on corners -- all of them on their phones, but talking to each other and getting excited about stuff I couldn't see. (Not exactly threatening!) Families taking walks. People my own age wandering around aimlessly, also glued to their phones but chatting here and there with strangers.

It was a bit perplexing.

It sounded good, though. The technology behind it is absolutely fascinating, from the use of your phone's GPS to the ability to take pictures with the characters. And even better, it's getting people outside -- you can only really gain by exploring where you were, so there is an incentive to find parks, museums, libraries ... or in the case of Rapid City, downtown, where every past US President has a statue.

There are other bonuses, though. For instance, my brother has cited it as a way to connect to the kids in his congregation. [Yep. Like my old youth leader.] And one that I found particularly interesting -- it has been very good for children with autism.

The Pokemon universe has layers and layers of details and statistics, which is the kind of thing that many autistic kids grasp onto. Then in order to gain more of that knowledge, these kids are encouraged to get more social and physical activity -- to interact just a little bit more with the world around them.

That's pretty darn cool.

By the time I joined in, the fervor had died down considerably -- as with so many games, the first few weeks are the big ones, and this was no exception. If Facebook is any indication, though, there are enough serious players to keep it going and even to pull in new folks (like, say, a dataphile sister who needed an extra nudge).

And to warrant a Christmas event. C'mon, Niantic. What's the holdup?

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