Dust off those Gameboy Colors, boys and girls, because it’s 1999 again and Pokemania has landed!
Thanks to Pokémon Go, it’s cool to be into Pokémon again and I no longer to have to hide in shame with my obsessive knowledge. I was fortunate enough to be around when the first wave of Pokémania hit and whoa boy were those some good times. Back in the day, I would trek my way to the local comic book store and spend hard-earned birthday money on Pokémon cards, arguing with the local cootie-infested boys about the glory that is Sandshrew. Having a collection of the first 151 Pokémon cards was quite the achievement (especially that foil Blastoise), a prize I kept close to my heart for many years. As I grew into those very awkward teenage years, Pokémon became significantly less cool, so I tucked away my fandom as I did with most nerdy memorabilia and did my best to fit in. (Spoiler alert: I failed.)
As an adult, I’ve grown to give fewer fucks about what others think of my nerdy loves and lives of the past and thusly embraced that inner dork who still enjoys playing Pokémon on her GBC. And now, with the release of Pokémon Go, my prayers have been answered! I can finally step outside and be the Pokémon trainer I always imagined myself to be all those years ago.
I have the worst luck. And it turns out, I’m still a gigantic dork.
While everyone else is out there battling gyms, catching awesome Pokémon, and hatching rare eggs, I’m here, pleading with my app just to work. I’ve spent more time force-closing Pokémon Go than I have actually catching Pidgey, and that’s saying something because there are so many Pidgey outside my house it’s like a Hitchcock film waiting to be filmed in Augmented Reality. I’ve lost not one, but two 10km eggs to the game freezing and I can’t say that I didn’t die a little inside when my third 10km egg hatched a Weedle. It’s almost like I exercised for no reason.
Facebook is littered with all these click-baity stories about how Pokémon Go has fostered this sense of community among fans, how it bonds children and adults alike, and how it brings together strangers from all walks of life. I’m a sucker for those stories because I truly believe in the power of video games and their ability to unite humans over a love of fighting fictitious animals.
I haven’t exactly experienced one of those stories. Most of my friends have at least one feel-good story about making friends with strangers at a church or ogling over someone else’s freshly caught Scyther. I, on the other hand, have had one Pokémon Go interaction with a stranger and it went down like this:
At the local outdoor child emporium also known as a playground, Jen spies another parent on her phone, showing off her screen to her child as they both laugh and have a good time. The child leaves to go play and scream like a banshee, and Jen sits down next to the woman, an uncomfortable smile streaking across her face because she’s never quite sure how to approach strangers and it comes across as more psychotic than friendly.
Jen asks: “Are you playing Pokémon Go, too? Caught anything good here? I saw an Onix earlier but now I can’t find it again. I really want to get a Haunter but there aren’t any Gastly around here.”
The look Jen gets in return isn’t quite of disgust; instead it’s more wary as the stranger looks Jen up and down, taking in her Laundry Day appearance, and then mutters, “Uhm…no,” and she not-so-subtly changes seats.
Jen immediately fumbles through a Chandler-esque “Hahaha yea me neither,” and runs off to hide on a tire swing.
Sure, I have local friends (I HAVE FRIENDS!) who play Pokémon Go, and I’ve dabbled in their pokécompany but they’re mostly adults who are concerned with real-life problems like “my child has 5 hours of homework a day” and “we need to replace the tires on our car.” Meanwhile, I’m standing alone in the middle of the JC Penney cursing because I only have 7 more pokéballs and this Bellsprout thinks he deserves better than my love.
On a daily basis I receive text messages and screenshots from friends who live in bigger cities, showing off their Pinsirs and Nidokings, and I’m left sitting at my desk with the villain voice in my head screaming, “WE WILL RULE AN ARMY OF RATS AND E-RATICATE THEM ALL. HAHA. AHAHAHA!”
If you’re like me and live in a more rural area, you know the pokéselection is meager at best. I might as well start putting up signs about how I live in the “Home of the World Famous Spearow Stampede!” where no matter the time of day, you’re sure to catch at least 5 Spearow wherever you go. I’m told major cities in the United States are like department stores, chock full of every Pokémon you can imagine, but the one time I opted to take a day trip to a major city, the servers were down and I cried into a ditto handkerchief until my phone battery died. (It lasted about 17 minutes.)
As a young girl, I used to draw Pokémon on wide-ruled paper and then sell those pictures door to door to neighbors who were willing to pay a quarter to make me go away. Back then I dreamed of being the very best, like no one ever was. Now, as an adult, Pokémon Go has brought that dream closer to reality.