Earlier this morning, I left the house at the usual time at around 0300. I felt like taking a walk today, and left the car at home just so I can indulge in the early morning air and catch some exercise while I’m at it.
I’d just barely closed the gate behind me when I spotted a grey Hyundai Accent hatchback at the street corner about 50 meters from our house. Paying no attention to it, I started walking. Almost immediately though, I noticed through the moderately tinted windshield of some movement – like something was being picked up from the floor of the vehicle and being passed around the front seats. It was then that I noticed that it was proceeding very, very slowly, almost at a person’s walking pace, if not slower. Its headlights were turned off, only the parking lights were on and the hazards were blinking. The occupants were looking to the back of the vehicle, then looked forward and turned to look from side to side, as it they were looking for something.
Nowadays, there have been a lot of news about people being shot on the street for being alleged drug pushers and what not. Since I have a deep distrust in the manner by which vigilantes carry out their dirty jobs, and there would definitely be “collateral damage” under such a system, I thought this might be one of those instances.
- car creeping along suspiciously
- occupants seem to be scoping out stuff
- me being out at an inopportune time
I was getting ready duck the fuck out the way of any damn bullets that might come flying my way. I continued walking forward anyway since I was in the more real danger of being late, and there seemed to be no signs of impending death from the passenger side window – I think.
A few tense seconds passed and the moment of truth came when I crossed directly in front of the passenger side window. I held my breath, started humming “Komm, süsser Tod” and there was…
I didn’t get shot, I didn’t get robbed.
I breathed a sigh of relief that I can still go to work and come home to my family afterwards.
Curiosity got the best of me so I glanced inside the car, the inside of which was by now fully visible as it was lit by the street lights from the other side of the road.
Both the driver and occupant were holding up their mobile devices, and playing Pokemon Go. I could tell via the screens on their phones and the screen captured maps that friends of mine have posted on Facebook. While I didn’t get shot with a 9mm, they did shoot bad glances at me then proceeded forward.
The car continued its snail-like pace right up to the plaza at the upper end of our street, and I lost sight of it from there. I continued on my journey to the office without further incident.
Seriously though, Pokemon Go.
For my dear readers who aren’t in the know, Pokemon Go is the latest mobile app craze that’s taking the world by storm. It’s based on the popular manga, anime and game franchise and is basically an app that uses your phone’s GPS locator to send you on a journey to catch all 151 (?) Pokemon. I think this app will also allow you to grow, train and eventually battle other Pokemon trainers.
According to most sources I’d read up on, Pokemon Go was envisioned so people can go on quests which will take them to various places, and to allow the younger generation (that are almost always cooped up at home behind a computer screen) to go out, see the world and maybe make new friends in the process.
And it’s true – there had been many documented instances of next door neighbors who had been previously oblivious to each other, meeting and hanging out for the first time, or crowds of people who end up at the same location and sharing their passion for the franchise. Young millenials who were content to be in a darkened room and hanging out in the cyber world are now coming out of their homes and hanging out with others in real life. Even the older folks who were around playing the original games have gone on the crazed wagon, mostly because now it had become possible to go on quests that involve moving around, something the Gameboy and the ported versions of the original Pokemon games didn’t allow us to do.
Here in the Philippines, the game was finally released a couple of days back to much fanfare. In a nation that had a good chunk of then 90’s kids and teens growing up around the first beloved Pokemon anime and Gameboy series (I myself played the Red / Green versions, etc. what-nots of the original game series) this was big news. People like my sister first downloaded the then mirrored “bootleg” version of this app late last month, and were dismayed when the app got blocked prior for the actual release date.
Now that the apk was finally and officially released, the past 24 hours had filled my Facebook feed with all sorts of posts about friends who’d downloaded the app, and started their quests to be the very best.
It’s all good really, and in the name of totally hanging out with other people apart from stalking each other on Facebook, this app is really something.
However, there are some inherent dangers to the game, those playing it and people around them.
Let me point out some of these from my point of view.
You see, a lot of people can get lost within a given activity, a psychological phenomenon known as “flow“.
I learned about this during our infamously dreaded INDIBEH (Individual Behavior) class, facilitated by the legendary Adonna Esleta. In a nutshell, people involved with a certain activity will experience full involvement, enjoyment and focus. This “heightened” sense of involvement often allows the person involved in the activity to make “better” use of their mental faculties, able to provide output that would otherwise not be possible had they been not caught within the flow. Their focus is often so intense it is hard to break through, and if you do break it, they can lose the experience. Street lingo describes it roughly as being in the zone, and being in this zone can make feel almost devoid of all other inputs from the outside world, being very focused on the task at hand. Some examples of this phenomenon include writers getting lost in thought, musicians writing or performing music, race drivers who are so in one with the vehicle that they feel and see nothing else but the race they are winning, video gamers who lose all sense of time while playing and so on.
I myself frequently fall into this zone of complete immersion and thought, and when I was still actively writing and recording songs, I can miss meals by many hours because I cannot think of anything else but the song I am working on. I can also fall within this zone when I play a guitar solo, and in my experience when I’m fully in it, I do not think of what notes to play and how to play them, I just do. I can attribute it to muscle memory, but my mind knows ahead of time what I should play and how to play it. There instances I replay our gig vids and I go “Wow! How the heck did I play that!?”.
That’s the flow experience as best as I shortly summarize it, and you can wiki quickly or read more about it here , here and here. I leave it entirely up to you if you want to read up on it, and there are loads of good references all over the net.
While the zone and being in it is good and isn’t really a problem by itself, it becomes so when it takes away attention from the real world.
The main gist of Go is to get people to move from one place to another in search of Pokemon. If say one is within the flow, they may forget to look both ways while crossing the street, endangering themselves by lowering their awareness to street traffic.
They may lose sense of being law abiding citizens and find themselves trespassing into property, something they inherently know is wrong but unable to process in their mind since they are caught within the flow.
They may engage in otherwise dangerous physical activities like jumping across gaps and roofs, which may not be the kind of activities that they normally do, but being lost within their zone, they are unable to think otherwise. Of course, injuries are in order whenever we allow ourselves to autopilot into things, something that non-Newtypes aren’t built for.
They may take their minds off their driving, and start looking left and right for Pokemon instead of looking left and right at an intersection. Given the Filipino propensity to “multi-task” while doing things (driving among them) this will certainly happen. And with the Anti Distracted Driving Act having been signed into law recently, we may have an influx of people being caught and penalized in trying to be the very best – while driving.
I am not discouraging anyone from downloading, playing and enjoying Pokemon Go. If you are a millenial, cooped at home and wants something to do and take you outdoors, this is the shit. However, remember to leave some semblance of sense whenever you are out journeying to catch ’em all. Look both ways while crossing the street, do not trespass, obey the law at all times. Remember, those virtual pocket monsters won’t guarantee your freedom should you end up behind bars for doing something stupid. Most of all keep yourself, your friends and the people around you safe, so everyone can go on and enjoy this app.
Also, please do not go hunting while driving. Keep your eyes and mind on the road, unless you want Jesus to take the wheel.
PS. I do not play this game and have no intention of doing so. I’m already (still rather) hooked to Real Racing 3.