The Pokemon Go phenomenon is in full swing across the globe. Pikachu and friends are creating havoc from Tokyo to Tennessee. And while I’ll admit I’ve accompanied our 12-year old on a neighborhood hunt, I’ve not taken part personally (mostly because I’d have to bring my reading glasses, and our daughter won’t allow me out of the house with them dangling around my neck). Regardless of your feelings on the topic, you have to admit, the headlines about negligent Poke-players who succumbed to stupidity, are entertaining.
Our town is no different. While certainly not a front page headline, I came across an incident that occurred recently in our corner of the world. Police were checking a local conservation area parking lot at sunset, when they came upon an abandoned vehicle, headlights on, driver’s door hanging open, engine running. Conservation area parking lots are notorious for vehicle break-ins, among other nefarious activities, so the matter was suspicious at the outset. The Officer exited the cruiser and surveyed the scene – car wide open, keys in the ignition, no one around – a potential installment of ‘The First 48’ in the works. As the Officer ran the license plate, a female suddenly burst from the brush some thirty feet away, obviously in distress. Panting, out of breath, not dressed for an evening hike, the young woman approached, explaining that in a moment of primal fury, she sprang from her vehicle (no doubt after slamming it into park while still rolling), and frantically darted off into the woods, after her elusive digital prey.
A particularly rare Pokemon.
And there you have it.
While not a 9/10 on the stupidity scale, not at all that surprising given the fearless foolish measures taken by some extreme gamers. And more to come, I’d wager.
I admit Nintendo’s premise of forcing idle, digital junkies away from their desktops, into the sunlight, is admirable, regardless of the inevitable risk of cliff plummets, bruised foreheads and cracked Iphone screens. I’ll even accept the inevitable data ‘over usage’ fees – but I draw the line when the hordes begin invading our natural woodlands.
Let’s keep Pokemon in the populated areas, shall we.
I realize a conservation area, or any green space within city limits is not exactly the untamed wilderness, but it’s often as good as the average city-dweller gets – a last bastion of unpaved beauty -digital enhancement not required.
While I don’t get out to woods as often as I’d like, I’m reminded of a favorite television program of mine, one that had me yearning for my next wilderness adventure. If you’ve not heard of it, the program ‘Survivorman’ is a reality-based series that followed Canadian survival expert Les Stroud, as he explored some of the most challenging terrains on earth. With no camera crew, no food or water, minimal equipment, and 50 pounds of camera gear to haul, the challenge was simple – to survive. From the alligator infested Florida Everglades, to the dense jungles of Costa Rica, to moose rutting season in Northern Ontario, Les battled inclement weather, rough terrain, starvation, dehydration, and predators. I’m not normally a fan of reality television, but this program was different, not contrived, not over the top, just Les, his cameras, and the wilderness. The next best thing to being there.
There is something to be said about seclusion, the separation from society’s electronic leash, and its subsequent effect on the human spirit. The soul rejuvenates and priorities are reset. Unfortunately, for most, being at one with nature is a rarity, often discarded in favor of theme parks, swim-up bars, and virtual pleasures. After all, if you need a nature fix, there’s always the National Geographic channel on a 70 inch 4K Samsung. Nature never looked so realistic.
And so we have it. The era of convenience and technology. The onset of disruptive digital creatures populating not only inhabited areas, but those few undisturbed, unbridled natural treasures.
But perhaps there’s an underlying positive here. Maybe Nintendo is attempting to restore balance in our lives. Enticing consumers by luring extreme gamers into the wilderness, forcing a conceptual confrontation – an opposites of sorts – state of the art digital entertainment versus mother nature – in 4K plus. No 3d glasses required.
It’s one theory. But understand this. This is only the beginning. GPS fueled gaming is in its infancy. Consider what may be luring idle hands outdoors in the near future – virtual treasure hunts, murder mysteries, zombie apocalypses, lawn bowling, all attracting their own unique niche of new gamers, from toddlers to old farts. No one will be safe.
And one day soon, the multitude of flickering lights you see in the darkness while sitting around your campfire, will not be fireflies.
I take solace in knowing that some, like survivalist guru Les Stroud, will not be chasing a Charmeleon over a distant ridge, nor will he be tossing imaginary balls at a Poliwrath perched in a tree. Of this I am sure.
Technology and nature can mix. To a degree. A selfie by the campfire, I’ll let that slide. Just turn off the phone afterwards, and put it away.
Some things should stay separate.
Like the Milky Way on a clear night, and Pikachu.
Until next time.