Monday morning, I did what any responsible adult in their mid-20s would have done: I woke up at 7 a.m., showered, took my wife to the bus stop and walked to work.
Naturally, I stopped every so often to catch a Pokémon.
Now for anyone over the age of 30 who doesn’t know what that means, I’ll try to explain. Pokémon is a Game Boy game from the ’90s, in which the player captured animals called Pokémon with the idea to collect all 150. There was also a cartoon series aired on Warner Brothers, and eventually trading cards and anything else you could imagine as Poké-fever swept playgrounds across the country.
Over the weekend, game company Niantic released the app Pokémon Go for free in the United States to the sheer glee of every ’90s kid’s inner fifth-grader, my own included.
Similar to geo-caching, the augmented reality app uses a GPS signal in concert with Google Maps in the real world to move the player’s avatar around the phone screen. Players can walk to designated points on the map to unlock certain items. Every so often, a Pokémon will appear and the player uses the camera function to capture it, progressing the player’s game strength. Again, the idea is to capture all 150 and train your Pokémon to be the strongest so as to defeat other players.
It’s the best exercise app that isn’t actually an exercise app.
The sheer number of people who have — until now — led sedentary lifestyles that spent the weekend walking for hours on end is incredible. More than a few people online have made comments about how Michelle Obama has been trying to get Americans to walk for eight years and Pokémon Go did it in 24 hours.
The irony isn’t lost on me — it’s taken a video game to get people off the couch and start exercising.
Tooele’s Main Street and cemetery are full of Pokéstops and Pokémon Gyms, which is why the Tooele City Police Department has undoubtedly responded to more than a few calls about suspicious behavior and loitering. Take a look outside and you will find people walking around with phones in hand, arms crooked at the elbow so as to afford the periodic glance at the screen.
You don’t actually need to exercise to play the game. I’ve seen and heard of people stepping into the gray areas of cheating by driving through the cemetery at 5 mph, only stopping for a few seconds, then continuing on at the same pace; using in-game items with their office Wi-Fi to attract Pokémon on the clock; strapping their phones to their pets and setting them loose in the backyard to help rack up distance “walked.” Thieves are also using the game to attract victims in the real world.
I wish people wouldn’t abuse the app.
Please, use Pokémon Go as Niantic intended. Walk around, or jog if you prefer. Don’t trespass. Don’t create a safety hazard on the roads by driving to play the game — nobody needs to take their car to the repair shop after rear-ending a player who slammed on the brakes to catch a Pokémon.
Even though you’re channelling your inner child when searching for new Pokémon, please follow the warning on the loading page and be the responsible 20-something-year-old the rest of society will see.
Tavin Stucki is a child of the ’90s who was an avid Pokémon trainer, who warns any readers from opposing teams to stay away from his gyms. Send any comments to email@example.com.