As the dawn of the digital age was peaking during its late “I want my MTV” years, an industrious Japanese gaming company captivated generations to come through its allure of eight-bit graphics masquerading as creatures of the unknown, beasts of recreational destruction.
Nintendo’s Pocket Monsters, or Pokemon were aptly named so: the imaginative technology bringing them to life could fit in one. Niantic Inc.’s Pokemon Go takes the monsters out of the pocket and augments them to fit in this reality. All through the wonders of our phones, another pocket monster entirely.
While entertainment has a penchant for gnawing through a concept at thrice the rate the technology evolves, I expected Pokemon Go to burn through the world’s attention span like a McDonald’s lawsuit. Yet the players, people of all generations, remain consistently fixated with the game.
I allowed my phone to bear the brunt of it all and willingly allowed the cultural infection to spread to it. I sought the fallout from when pocket monsters simply became monsters and what replaces the pocket.
Trainers gather at the National Mall every day, taking in the significance of the monuments and memorials. Only to end up flicking Pokeball at a Clefairy evading capture on Abraham Lincoln’s lap. Coming from the Pentagon, I braved the heat advisory in my mismatched business attire that day to play.
The only regret I have from was not starting the game sooner. The Snorlax, the Gerard Depardieu of the Pokemon universe, located in the Pentagon’s courtyard eluded my grasp. The Defense Department has been known to cut off cell service to horde uncommon and legendary Pokemon to themselves.
The vibrations from my phone interrupted my contemplations of taking a dip in the emerald reflecting pool, alerting me of nearby Pokemon. Turning the app on, I saw Pokemon strolling across the mildly inaccurate in-game map. Clicking on them welcomed confrontation and a chance for recruitment.
There was an unspoken agreement between hunter and hunted, permitting indefinite imprisonment if caught. The overlooked bleakness of the concept is an unintentional educational tool, instructing players on human nature.
My bounty of the day consisted of: a Charmander, several Rattatas and Pidgeys, a Magikarp and a Venonat. Their names are meaningless, renamed for redundancies like Fire Lizard, Pigeon, Fish Out of Water and Steve Buscemi.
Over the course of the next week, my journey to be true Pokemon Master brought me to other Washington, D.C. Pokemon hotspots. Pokemon Go has been attributed to the rise in accidental tourism.
Tyson’s Corner Mall is where I spent my days shopping for Pokemon while commuting. No Pokemon went uncaught on my trek to the workplace.
The Georgetown Waterfront, a congregation of walkers, bikers, eaters and boaters, now catered to the presence of imaginary psychic ducks and birds sporting David Bowie haircuts. Near bodies of water, the appearance of aquatic Pokemon is so common, the creatures are more likely to be mistaken as paddle-boarding yogis.
The bay, a natural surf safari filled with a sort of Poke-pet sounds unlike Brian Wilson’s, wreaked of incense and lures, in-game items baiting Pokemon to their capture. They never stood a chance.
The game sees through political landscapes and basic traffic laws. Pedestrians lured into the demise of an active four-way intersection, the White House acting as a Pokemon Gym with citizens reaching for a Wi-Fi signal outside its gates. The game was a war on common sense, leaving the smartest to survive. My preoccupation for living overruled my need to “catch them all.”
Forcing an encounter after depleting Pokeball rations is a most dishonorable blow to the warrior’s mindset. Pinsir, the bane of my existence in this augmented reality, taunted me. The offspring of a threatening pinecone and an unapologetic stag beetle taunted me snapping its thorned horns my way.
I had ran out of Pokeballs at least three Arcanines ago. Unwilling to commit my debit card to this dream-chasing, I refused to become a consumer in a pay-to-play triangle scheme. I had to pay for more Pokeballs, an item with no value in the real world.
With no means to detain my prey, I took the coward’s way out: I ran. And with it, a chance for introspection.
Precautions were put in place to prevent a fall down this rabbit hole. I found myself in familiar territory, adolescence, a time where the pockets Pokemon originated had no boundaries. Now, there are no more pockets. And Pokemon Go has no boundaries.