A night of Pokémon Go

Tonight marked my first night spent actively hunting Pokémon; it was, in fact, the first time I’d ever bothered to catch one outside. Finding new critters in new places, seeking out pokéstops with lures attached, comparing notes with a friend… this was all fun but predictable. I guess I just also haven’t been on an evening walk in a while1, because the whole meatspace community aspect of the thing was new, and very unlike what I expected.

Walking through our main town park, which was technically closed since it was after dark, was fascinating. Where there were pokéstops, there were just masses of people huddled together… enough where it seemed rather unlikely to me that all these people actually knew each other… little social gatherings were forming in the middle of the night just out of the desire to catch virtual monsters. And while the basic idea here wasn’t surprising, the sheer scale of the groups, the sheer number of people glued to their phones and alerting others to the presence of a Goldeen really wasn’t something I had anticipated.

The other fascinating aspect, and this was more outside of the park, was the divided attitude among people. Plenty of people simply didn’t seem to care, of course, and plenty of people were clearly playing as they walked down the street2. But there was another group of people, reveling in their snobbishness… mocking the players they saw on the street, or keeping count every time they spotted another3. To me, it’s just dumb fun, and even if I weren’t enjoying it, I see no real reason to deride someone’s innocent (albeit silly) joy. So I found it particularly strange just how forthcoming people were with their anti-Pokémon thoughts. On the flipside, it was nice to see a handful of local businesses embracing it, like my favorite little truffle joint offering free candy to folks who caught Pokémon outside their establishment.

This thing truly is a phenomenon. Ingress was cool, but this is… well… Pokémon. I honestly can’t remember ever seeing this sort of spontaneous human gathering before, nor this level of just… people wandering and scavenging for the same things. It’s completely fascinating, and seems to be just the sort of levity the world needs right now.

  1. Interestingly, the whole phenomenon is very different and more pronounced in my small hometown vs. DC, where I work. In DC, I think I’ve run into some Pokémon Go players, but these groups are pretty much indistinguishable from normal tour groups. ↩︎
  2. Humorously, a lot of people seemed to have the same mental mapping algorithm figured out, as you can kind of watch these trains of strangers who just happen to be following each other by virtue of wanting to hit the same spots. ↩︎
  3. Was the irony not lost on them that they were essentially trying to… catch ‘em all? ↩︎