I haven’t been blogging much lately. It’s possible that the Hearthstone meta is somewhat stable and predictable now, and we know what to expect. It’s possible that I have been bogged down by work. It’s more likely though that I have been dragged into the unbreakable grasp of augmented reality game Pokemon GO. If you don’t know what Pokemon GO is, it is likely you truly live under a rock, but it is basically a game that involves capturing Pokemon with your smartphone. In the real world, Pokemon GO has become a tremendous cultural phenomenon in it’s short lifespan. While the game has clear public safety implications with distracted driving and walking, it has had numerous tremendous benefits from getting people to walk outside more, to helping autistic people interact with others. The sense of community and connection that Pokemon GO has brought to the world is one that I will focus on here, as I joined a Pokemon GO Meetup by accident today.
Artscape is an annual arts festival/event that occurs in Baltimore. I have gone the last few years, primarily to check out the Gamescape event, which features lots of indie game designers showcasing their games in develop for the public to play. I first noticed something was up, when I was going to Gamescape, in that a statue of Edgar Allan Poe was decked out with Ash’s Pokemon hat and Pokeballs.
When I left Gamescape, I noticed a gathering of people staring at their phones. There were also a number of lures around connected Pokestops, meaning that people were catching Pokemon.
Hey look! A big yellow sign that says Pokemon GO! Event. Apparently it was organized through Facebook. When I arrived, a raffle was wrapping up. The organizer mentioned that the group would be taking a walk through the festivities before stopping for another raffle. Given that I came to Artscape alone and had nothing else to do, I decided to join the Pokemon GO group.
Taking the streets
With the group moving on, I walked around directly behind the big yellow sign.
Walking around with a big yellow sign is sure to draw a ton of attention in an outdoor arts festival. Given I was so close to the action, I was able to see a whole spectrum of reactions from passersby. And they were pretty predictable from what you see online.
This Pokemon GO meetup got a lot of love. People were yelling “Team Instinct” a whole lot given the yellow theme of the organizer and sign, or whatever team (Valor / Mystic) they favored. The group was actually growing as we walked through the festival, with people who had nothing urgent to do joining the movement. A lot of people who were working as vendors lamented that they had to work at the moment. I heard a lot of whispers of people saying if they should join the group.
People who make fun of people playing Pokemon GO online are predictably vacuous in their reasoning for hating the game. And you saw these reactions from people who saw the group. A whole lot of eye rolling and “oh god Pokemon” phrases heard.
The ambivalent crowd were mostly older folks who understandably don’t really have a reason to take a side in Pokemon GO. While you would expect people who don’t understand to hate, a lot of people were just like “oh that’s neat” without being disrespectful.
We went around and couldn’t find a place to stop, so we circled back to where I found the group to begin with. It was time for a raffle!
I got the second ticket given out. We were playing for a number of things like decals, buttons, and grand prizes of 3D printed Flareon and Hitmonchan. I wound up getting a button fairly early, and I got to pick my team, which happened to be Mystic.
Most of all, this event was organized to catch Pokemon! And in this meetup, I was able to catch some of the highest CP Pokemon I have ever seen, and plenty rarish Eevee.
All-in-all, I was glad I joined the Artscape Pokemon GO meetup. I believe they are still doing activities now, but I was pooped and left shortly after the raffle ended. I thanked the organizer for setting it up. I experienced the great sense of community that Pokemon GO has brought to the world first-hand. This game is not only really fun, but has the ability to bring people together of all types, uniting us with a common interest.