My husband and I spent a good portion of our weekend walking through our neighborhood cemetery, turning little digital discs, fighting little digital battles, and collecting little digital pocket monsters. The weather was nice, it was a good day for a long walk, and if the Pokémon Go servers weren’t so overloaded, we would have spent even more time doing it. Secret’s out: it’s fun.
I completely understand when other people don’t think it’s fun. In the week that I’ve been playing, I’ve been pretty self-aware of how stupid I look, standing in the middle of a field outside my academic building, staring intently at my phone and getting really excited when it buzzes. I look pretty idiotic wandering through that cemetery, unduly interested in the Hill family mausoleum, which seems to always toss out a fiver of super potions. I look stupid when I’m at a restaurant with my husband and we’re chatting idly about things like “fivers of super potions.”
I look stupid when, while playing Pokémon Go with my out-of-town friend, before he crosses the street, I say, “Look up! Don’t become a statistic!” but that’s what our world has come to, so I must do what I can to protect the people I love.
It’s at least a little bit nostalgic; when I was young, Pokémon was the only Saturday-morning ritual I had. I’d watch it with my older brother, and then we’d sometimes spend the afternoon in the backyard pretending to catch and battle Pokémon. We learned computer coding languages so we could make our own Pokémon games. We bought the trading cards with our allowance (and promptly realized that they did not work like Magic cards, and lost our enthusiasm rather quickly).
But it’s not all just nostalgia. Ash Ketchum lives in a world where all animals can be pets, where it’s legal to battle those pets, and it’s common to try to collect literally hundreds of pets. When Ash Ketchum walks down the street, if he sees a little bug or a rat or something innocuous, he gets to decide whether or not he wants to keep it. If he meets someone, he can probably talk to them, and they’ll probably have some overlapping interests, or can at least swap stories about their favorite experiences with their little pocket monsters.
Ash Ketchum’s life is one big adventure, and everyone he knows has a life as full of destiny as he does. He fights bad guys, he trains at gyms, he makes friends and learns amazing things. And now, with Pokémon Go, we get to pretend that our world is just like his. We can catch bugs at our leisure, make new friends during pleasant walks outside, train at our local gyms without looking foolish for not knowing how dumbbells work.
For the record, I don’t want to live in Ash’s world. Does his world include mosquitos, squirrels, or other common animals that aren’t Pokémon? Are there regular trees? Are there bacteria? It’s unclear, and it’s that lack of clarity that concerns me.
But like Geneva said, our world is on fire right now. Yes, it’s been bad before, but not this kind of bad, and not this much in at least my lifetime. Every action we take, even simple, seemingly innocuous ones, seems to leave big ripples. People around the world are radicalizing and forgetting to listen to each other, forgetting the humanity in others.
If I could, I would create an augmented-reality game that would work like rose-colored glasses for your phone so you could forget, for as long as your battery held out, the pain we’re all collectively facing as a human race right now.
Christians are not called to hide away, to wear rose-colored glasses. But other than praying continuously and acting out of the grace and mercy provided for us, I’m not sure what else we can do for this world. And when that gets to be too much, I think it’s fair to strap on some Pokémon-colored glasses and disappear into Ash’s simpler world, where the bad guys call themselves “Team _______” and cackle a lot, where animal cruelty isn’t really a thing, and no one seems to be hungry or homeless or alone. Where taking sides is easy and making friends is safe.
But look up. Don’t become a statistic.
Mary Margaret is a 2013 English, history, and secondary education grad who went rogue and became a Social Worker in Pennsylvania’s Child Welfare system. Specifically, she works as a caseworker in the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network finding families for children and educating the masses about foster care, adoption, and permanency planning. She made it over the grad-school hurdle with gold stars and warm fuzzies and is on to the next big adventure: the unknown of adulthood. Her major writing dream right now is to finish her science fiction novel that explores the concurrent futures of child welfare and artificial intelligence.