I grew up with Pokémon. As a kid, I woke up early every weekday morning to watch the show before school. I collected the cards, I collected all things Pikachu, and I heartily enjoyed the GameBoy games. I liked to wear my Ash Ketchum hat and pretend I was Ashley Ketchum, Pokémon master extraordinaire. When I first saw mention of Pokémon GO on Facebook, it looked like a childhood dream come true. Yeah, it’s smartphone-level augmented reality, but the imagination fills in the blanks. Hey, it encourages you to explore landmarks, too? We just moved to a new city with lots of cool stuff, so this will be great! Back when I was in college, when I first heard about Foursquare, I joined just because of the now-gone badge-based exploration incentives.
All things considered, I should have been easy pickin’s.
The day Pokémon GO officially debuted in the U.S., I had just finished re-reading the old Sailor Moon manga. It’s not a short series, and I’m not great at time management, so when it was over it was like waking up from a really long dream. But hey, there’s this new sweet game out? Well, I can try it for a little while. Just a little while. Once I’ve had a good taste, I’ll delete it.
And so, the next day, I downloaded the app and tried to sign up for an account. The Pokémon Trainer Club accounts looked like a better bet than just using a Google account, and with no apparent way to link the two, I figured I should do it right the first time.
But I got a 502 error. And a 503 error. And with attempts on my phone and on my desktop, in the app and out of it.
Apparently, the servers were having issues. It was a known issue, and there was nothing to do but wait. In that moment, when I saw I couldn’t just plow forward like I’d wanted to, I felt like a victim of a Dark Kingdom scheme who had just been saved by Sailor Moon. My eyes opened.
“I just spent all that time reading the comic books that inspired a show I liked when I was ten, and I’m about to spend a lot of time chasing cartoon characters from a show I liked when I was ten. What am I doing with my life?”
I’ve been working on my discipline already, lately, but this was an important moment. I deleted the app and decided that no matter how fun it looks, I will not play Pokémon GO. Besides, Ed and I have already been exploring the Indianapolis area—for its own sake. It’s pretty cool.
If that’s not enough, the half of Facebook not discussing the game is posting about the horrific things that have happened in our country recently, and all of this on the heels of Brexit, which, whether a good change or a bad one, is still absolutely chaos-inducing. Escapism often is easiest when it’s most important to stay present, and the world needs intelligent, focused, moral, loving people who are present right now.
Today, while half the world was running all over creation capturing cartoon creatures with cartoon pokéballs, I practiced my watercolor painting and then designed a cover for my soon-to-be-self-published short story. I didn’t wake up early, and I didn’t leave the house, but it’s something. I want to learn new things and create beautiful things and, yes, leave the house and go see the city, the state, the country, the world. And I want to benefit the wider world rather than just having fun for my own sake. I want to live in reality and impact reality. I want to live.
There’s actually a lot going on in the real world, good and bad, and it’s way more exciting than I used to believe.
[EDIT: To be fair, I know there’s value in the potential to make friends with strangers over a mutual love of something frivolous like video games or sports. I just don’t get enough mileage out of that to justify this myself.]