“Nations of the World Confront Pokémon Go Menace”
New York Times Headline, July 20, 2016
So, it’s come to this. Electronic gaming has disrupted the balance of power among nations. It was inevitable, yet no one in a position to influence government policy was prepared. Now the threat has weaseled its way into the very fabric of our lives and our fabric is none the better for it. It is very likely Obama’s fault.
Upon reading the headline, the Clown had one simple question: What the hell is Pokémon Go?
Well, actually, I had an additional question: Is Pokémon singular or plural?
In an effort to answer these burning questions and find out why so many nations are afraid of its potential, the Clown, using his extraordinary research skills, which primarily entail looking stuff up on Wikipedia, dove directly into the cesspit of time-wasting, brain-warping, anti-social-behavior-inducing electronic gaming. The Clown has emerged from that dark underbelly of the techno-world with some (but not all) answers, albeit covered in digital slime.
First, here is brief description of the game. Oops, sorry, there is no “brief” description of the game, but I’ll do my best. I’ll insert question marks in those places that may take extra investigation to actually, you know, play the game.
First download (?) the app (?) from the Google Playstore (?), customize your digital tracker (?) or avatar (?), enter the map (?), select a “starter” Pokémon (either Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle) (?), find evidence of Pokémon on the map (?) and go there (?), catch (?) Pokémon when it (they?) are close enough to vibrate your phone, fling the Pokéball (?) at the Pokémon (?), add the captured Pokémon to your Pokédex (?), use your army of captured Pokémon to battle other Pokémon armies at enemy Gyms (?) and, as supplies run low, visit a Pokéstop (?) to get more Pokéballs, “eggs” (Pokémon larva) (?), etc. As one would expect, the Pokéstops transform into spinning blue discs when you are close enough to re-supply. You get the idea, enjoy!
There are, as of July 18, 2016, 719 Pokémon characters. You will need to memorize each one and understand what role or superpower each plays in the game, so bone up (which, by the way, would make a great Pokémon character name).
The 719 Pokémon cartoon characters are drawn in the Japanese anime style and are either creepily cute (Sea Rhinoceros), cutely hideous (Charizard) or, in the case of many of the female Pokémon like Jenny, have heavy but not pendulous breasts, unrealistically narrow waists with round buttocks and the long bare legs of a Russian female high jumper (although gender in Russia is always arguable). In other words, the types of characters cherished by 12-year-old girls and lusted after by 12-year-old boys and creepy older guys. So, the characters are a marketer’s dream team, all 719 of them.
Here are some tips for playing the game.
The vibrating phone signal that alerts you that a Pokémon is nearby requires that you have the phone in your hand 24/7. For Millennials and younger, no problem. For regular people who sometimes forget their cell phones, leave the house while it’s charging or throw it in a purse for future use, say, for making a phone call (no really, it’s actually a phone too), the missed signal can be a disadvantage. This will come back to haunt you during a vicious Gym battle, considering your pathetic little collection of Pokémon. Some Millennial will whip your creepily cute wrinkled butt.
Because Pokémon show up in real locations via Google Map, one must leave the comfort of one’s gaming console and venture forth into the real world to capture virtual characters. You can make it a social outing by gathering with other players (who often refer to themselves as “nerds”) and walk around together staring at your cell phones and not talking.
The fact that the game takes players into the real world is what has caused national uproars. Here are but a few examples: Saudi Arabia clerics have renewed an existing fatwa against Pokémon, calling it “un-Islamic” and something that Mohammad explicitly warned of in the 7th century; Bosnia has warned players not to chase Pokémon into land mine areas left over from the 1990s (excellent safety tip); Egyptian security officials have warned that “sharing photos” of security sites where Pokémon might gather could compromise Egyptian security; Russian officials concur and consider it a C.I.A. plot; the Cossacks think that it “smacks of Satanism”; Kuwait has banned the game at government facilities; Indonesia considers it a national security threat and North Korea is, well, North Korea. Among devout players, except those who have blown themselves to pink mist in Bosnian land mine accidents and thus improved the international gene pool, these more restrictive countries are known as the “Paranoid Lands”.
Donald Trump has tweeted that “…anyone searching for Pokémon in my hair will be charged with trespassing and given a belittling nickname, then dissed endlessly”. Although the Donald doesn’t consider Pokémon Go a national security threat, he plans to investigate any of the 719 characters who “seem Mexican” or have “Hispanicky sounding last names”.
Pokémon Go does get otherwise inactive couch potatoes out into the fresh air, public spaces of interest (which players then view via the phone screens) as well as restricted areas, private property and traffic. They do this for the thrill of the hunt, even though their prey is actually a long series of 0’s and 1’s and totally inedible. The dangers of sloth at home (hypertension, diabetes, pallor of the skin, home invasion by hundreds of undocumented immigrants, etc.) are replaced with the excitement of possibly being hit by a vehicle, shot by an “open carry” homeowner or security guard, bumping into street people and catching cooties or wandering into a land mine field. All-in-all, a reasonable trade-off.
Although the Clown has not yet taken Step One (downloading the app) until he fully understands what those terms mean exactly, he plans to begin memorizing the 719 Pokémon characters and their individual skills in preparation for excelling at the game. This memorization will come in just as handy as memorizing all the states and their capitals, which the Clown totally aced in the fifth grade. Funny, isn’t it, that no one since has asked me go through that list. I guess most people just aren’t interested anymore; they’re too busy playing electronic games.
Observoid of the Day: My desire to be well-informed is currently being challenged by my desire to remain sane.