The park I fondly call My Park is Yorba Regional Park, perhaps the most beautiful of Orange County’s Regional Park system, a mile and a half expanse of lightly wooded grass along the Santa Ana River between Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda. It has four small lakes, asphalt trails for walking and biking, playgrounds for children and large shelters frequently used for company picnics or family reunions. A loop around the entire park is about three miles, which makes a perfect place for getting in the 8000 steps a day demanded by my Fit-bit. For about a week, at the East end of the park where the bluebirds are plentiful and the park walkways open onto the Santa River Trail, people have been congregating in small groups, mesmerized by the cellphones and tablets their hands. Yep. It was my first official sighting of people playing Pokemon Go, the mobile device trend that the media has been salivating about for a couple of weeks now. Now, given a choice between following a trend and leprosy, I’d gladly choose the latter but I am also a technology geek, so I was curious about the game and, in particular, why people would gather in a particular place to play it. I found Beginners Guide: How to Play Pokemon Go! online and learned that the game includes special locations known as PokeStops where players are more likely to find the critters that are the objects of their quest. I am inclined to think of such games a complete waste of time … and to be quite honest, my Inner Curmudgeon regards that bevy of Pokemon players staring at their mobile devices as they sit in the prettiest part of the park as idiots. It’s opinions like that that usually keep him my Inner Curmudgeon.
Besides, I have an 11 year old grandson who would absolutely LOVE Pokemon Go if his parents let him play it, which I hope they won’t. I’ve watched him play similar games on his Kindle and he’s certainly no idiot. In fact, he is the grandchild that is most like Older Eyes. But when we are in the park, we do park things. We feed the squirrels and look for turtles and have boat races with sticks in the brook. Perhaps that is the crux of my gripe with Pokemon Go … it’s claim to be an augmented reality game. Definition time. Augmented – having been made greater in size or value. Hmm. Pokemon Go is played on a poor man’s GPS-driven map with the various Poke-things superimposed on it. No one in my favorite corner of the park was looking up from their mobile devices to see the reality of a summer day in Socal.
Listen to this description of the game from the website I linked above:While it may overtly promote itself as a game about catching Pokémon and battling, the real joy is exploring the real world with your friends, giggling while you check in at historical monuments disguised as PokéStops, and making new connections in your neighborhood with other would-be Pokétrainers. Historical monuments, you say? Here’s an explanation of PokeStops from the same website: PokéStops are important or iconic places around your area: They may be special benches with dedication plaques, permanent art installations, or historic landmarks. They’ll never be something as mundane as a stop sign, nor will they be in a location that is not accessible to the public — like something inside a private building, or beyond a locked gate.
So, Pokemon Go doesn’t augment reality … it reduces important, iconic and beautiful places to cartoon hunting grounds filled with mobile device-watching zombies who get in the way of people who actually are interested in history, art and beauty. And while it may (or may not) be true that PokeStops will not be in locations inaccessible to the public, public places inappropriate for games are apparently fair game … hence signs at the National Holocaust Museum and the National Cemetery asking visitors not to engage in Pokemon Go. Un-freaking believable. It a world where texting while driving is … inexplicably … a major cause of traffic accidents, it adds one more way to lose touch with reality while mobile. In the little town of Rancho Cordova, which is apparently (without it’s knowledge or consent) a PokeStop known for rare characters, police have issued countless citations for cars full of young adults, playing while driving. Perhaps this time my Inner Curmudgeon can agree … Poke-Idiots.
When I Googled Pokemon Go is for idiots I found that in the midst of dozens of articles looking to exploit the trend for the sake of readership, there are those who agree with IC. My favorite was in Fortune Magazine titled, Welcome to the Apocalypse, Brought to You by Pokémon Go. It concluded, (I)t’s a fairly delicious irony that a twist on a 20-year-old game is responsible for getting tens of thousands or even millions of people to leave their computers and homes and wander around in the actual world, even if some of them are behaving like idiots. Now, if you are a Pokemon Go player, you are probably thinking Older Eyes is just an old fart. You’d be right. You are probably saying, Older Eyes doesn’t know to have fun. You’d be wrong. I have more fun than a 72 year old man has a right to have. I even play an occasional game on my phone when there isn’t any real fun to be had, usually Classic Words or Tetris. However, I mistake neither for reality. And I’d say this back: If you are over 12 and obsessed with chasing Charmeleon or Charizard, you are probably in serious need of a life. And to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, there’s a good chance you are behaving like an idiot.