Picture the person you know least likely to be swept up in this Pokemon Go game craze. Now add red lipstick, vintage clothes, a penchant for hats and late 1990s hip-hop and you’ve got me.
And yet, here I am sweeping the streets of Toledo and waving my iPhone around every nook and cranny of the newsroom as I try to catch these insidious little pocket monsters. I downloaded the augmented reality game on Sunday after reading about the Wyoming girl who discovered a dead body in a river while playing. (Because I’m a reporter that intersection of virtual world meeting very real world appealed to me even though I didn’t know a Pikachu from a pineapple.) I’ve now spent the last five days building up my Pokedex and hitting up Pokestops. I really don’t even know who I am anymore.
But the fun side-effect of all this Poke-nonsense is the instant camaraderie I’ve felt with other players. Downtown Toledo, typically a dead zone on nights when the baseball team isn’t playing at home, is swarming with Pokemon fans. I’ve gotten to know several, including DeAngelo, a particularly diligent player who works at Goodwill Industries and who was gracious enough to place a lure module (I know, ridiculous, right? How is it that I just used those words) at the Pokestop outside The Blade. We spent my 15-minute break catching Pidgeys and Drowzees on the sidewalk. He asked me to take his photo with a purple Rattata, and we’ve been buddies ever since. (He texted me this morning to ask if I’d be playing and since we’re both on the blue team we’re plotting how to take over a nearby gym.)
I firmly believe that if you’re going to do something — even something silly– then you should do it with zest. I enlisted the help of a Blade colleague, Will Harrison, who writes a video game column for the newspaper but whom I had rarely spoken to in our nearly four years of mutual employment (Sorry, Will!). He graciously agreed to shepherd this sad-sack novice around downtown during our Monday lunch break, and I don’t think we would have gotten to know each other were it not for this maddeningly addictive game.
But maybe my favorite part of this Pokemon fever is seeing the pictures that players are capturing from newsrooms near and far. Reporting life is stressful and serious, but taking a few minutes to track down a virtual mythical creature provides a little levity. I mean, look at all the new Blade subscribers I’ve found lurking around our newsroom:
Pokemon are popping up in newsrooms around the world. Here they are in Newfoundland, Canada:
And the interest prompted this top-notch response from the Wichita Eagle after the newspaper discovered it was a Pokestop:
And the Los Angeles Times’ excellent video showing it is filthy with Pokemon:
Is Pokemon ridiculous? Absolutely. But it’s also a monster-big business and social phenomenon. Cultural relevancy requires newspapers — those stodgy repositories of grandfatherly readers and too-cool reporters –to pay attention and, even, play.