By Jerry Mooney
The game of golf is often referred to as a good walk spoiled. I know many people who are orthodox about their golf games, even though they’re not good, and consider modern derivatives like frisbee golf to be abominations. But the truth is, their ultimate functions are the same: take a walk outside and entertain yourself while you go, maybe converse with some friends. Afterwards share your adventure over drinks.
Because of this I find the backlash to Pokemon Go to be curmudgeonly. I’m not saying that Pokemon Go is the next step in the evolution of the modern professional athlete. I am saying that suddenly millions of people, potentially couch potatoes, are going outside and walking around instead of sitting in front of monitors playing video games. They may even talk to each other. Not text. Not message. Talk. This is good.
The Pokemon Go game is just over a week old and it has surpassed Twitter and Facebook for interaction and has increased Nintendo’s value by more than $7.5 billion. Advertisers are already lining up to get Pokemon to be found in their establishments because it is driving insane amounts of foot traffic. And businesses know that it takes a lot of resources to get people in the doors of their business. Once inside people tend to become consumers. Now a game is greasing the wheels for this traffic.
Rarely does anything have the kind of power we are seeing with Pokemon Go to get people to want to go to specific places. Even the National Park Service is enthused about the game, because it gets people in the national parks even if the original goal is to find digital monsters. Once they’re there, they can soak in the majesty and cultivate an appreciation.
Now there are some less cynical and more valid concerns about Pokemon Go. With the rise of the cybercriminal, having this much data about people’s activities can be a concern. Some clever thieves have already used the game to lure victims of theft. And every single person who crashes their car, bike or causes a fight due to inattentive walking will be broadcast vociferously on the news. But hopefully there will also be reports about how the game has already shown to have positive effects on depression, and how sedentary people are now inspired to move.
So be cynical and post on Facebook about how you don’t have time for Pokemon Go because you’re a busy adult (irony?), but know you’re just being a curmudgeon. This is simply a modern game of golf. A game where the visions and fantasies of game playing children have come to life in an animated form of a good walk. Instead of hitting a ball with a stick you flick a digital ball with your finger and mobile device. But you walk the course to your targets, then use your device to finish.
Because kids grew up playing this game instead of stick and ball games like older generations, they are emotionally invested. And this game allows the childhood imagination to re-experience itself in the grownup world. When children were playing Pokemon with cards they imagined being real warriors, battling monsters and becoming powerful heros. Now their imaginations gain the dimension of the search. And because these kids might be better at Pokemon than the older generation is at golf, perhaps their good walk isn’t spoiled, and perhaps that’s the critic’s real issue.
Jerry Mooney is co-founder and managing editor of Zenruption and the author of History Yoghurt and the Moon. He studied at the University of Munich and Lewis and Clark College where he received his BA in International Affairs and West European Studies. He has recently taught Language and Communications at a small, private college and owned various businesses, including an investment company that made him a millionaire before the age of 40. Jerry is committed to zenrupting the forces that block social, political and economic justice. He can also be found on Twitter@JerryMooney