Since then, not much has changed. I’m still in line for every new game on launch day. I read the Pokémon news sites daily and follow the video game championships every year. I love the game.
And when I first saw the trailer for Pokémon Go, I was thrilled. As a kid, my friends and I would pretend to be Pokémon trainers on the playground; with Pokémon Go, we actually could be. I awaited the release with bated breath. And now that the game is out, it’s taken the Internet by storm. I’ve read about people making friends playing Pokémon Go, or how the game is good for our mental health. It’s fun, it’s free, and I should love it.
But I don’t.
It’s not because Nintendo is making games for smartphones rather than improving its tanking video game, or because players are encouraged to pay real money for virtual Pokéballs. It’s not that the game has been blamed for traffic accidents and muggings. I don’t even mind that the secondary bracelet device means players can catch Pokémon without even glancing at their phones.
It’s not any of these things — not really. What I dislike about Pokémon Go is the way its co-opted the conversation. The game was released in the middle of a particularly violent summer. There have been shootings, protests and bombings. But people seem too preoccupied with which Pokémon Go team they should join, or when the game is coming to Europe to pay much attention to Black Lives Matter or Brexit or the spate of terror attacks sweeping the East. The game has dominated my Facebook and Twitter feed. And it makes me sad that we’re more passionate about catching Pokémon together than about enacting any kind of change.
I can already hear the Pokémon Go fanatics arguing that we need a distraction from the world’s problems, that for the first time a video game is encouraging perfect strangers to gather peacefully in the real world for a common goal. The game is fun, and people enjoy it, so what’s the harm?
And I get that, I really do. Who really wants to be inundated with bad news? Hearing about all the terrible things happening in the world is a huge bummer, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. But the more we talk to each other, face to face, about what’s happening in the world right now, and the less we suppress our fears behind the safety of our smartphones, the closer we’ll be to changing it for the better.