In case you have not yet heard, the app Pokemon Go is getting tons of teenage and twenty-somethings out of the house to walk their neighborhoods in search of fictitious creatures to capture on their phones.
I asked a middle school kid to show me the game on his smartphone and explain it. But like the original Pokemon card game that my kids enjoyed playing twenty years ago, this new version of Pokemon left me cold.
It’s not supposed to appeal to adults like me. But I have an additional layer of prejudice toward games of that nature because my longtime, avid interest in the actual natural world frequently finds me discovering far more interesting things than the world of badly drawn mashups of animals with bad attitudes and weird habits.
But I do believe firmly in the right of all people to let their imaginations wander where they need or want to go, even if that is a place manufactured and owned by a massively corporate method of engagement. Such is life in the Big City.
Oops I got some exercise
Whatever the outcome, kids doing Pokemon Go are actually getting tons of exercise. That’s something in which I also believe. And as one parent of an avid Pokemon Go player said to me, “For all the efforts of Michelle Obama to get kids to exercise…kids are walking more from playing Pokemon Go than anything else.”
It’s true. And you should check out this hilarious link to a Gizmodo web story on the Pokemon Go phenomenon.
The game basically plays a huge virtual reality trick on kids to get them to locations where Pokemon characters can be nabbed. You can also collect “eggs,” I am told, which is a prized bit of ownership. The trick to the game is that you have to walk another 5.1 kilometers to get the egg to hatch. Pretty sneaky stuff.
Trick or treat
So what evil parent dreamed this up?
It plays like a comedy routine from Daniel Tosh, who revels in perverse irony.
That means it will only be a week or so before the evangelical Christian community begins its protest of the Pokemon Go game.
The meme with conservative Christians is almost always the same. They’ll say that Pokemon is a product of the Gay Agenda, or the product of atheists trying to steal the attention of children away from Jesus.Just you watch. It’s going to happen in 3…2…1…
And while writing this blog, I entered “Christians protest Pokemon Go…” and found this stunning admission by the inventor of the original game. He was reputedly trying to contradict his anti-evolution Christian parents. But as a person with an education in biology, the thing that always bugged me about Pokemon is that it doesn’t really get evolution right either.
But when some Christian organization gets wind of these possible beliefs, it will undoubtedly pump out a weak-ass version of Pokemon Go, call it Elijah Walks or some such biblically imitative hogwash, and foist it on unsuspecting Christian kids as God’s answer to the godless gaming community.
Then the arch-conservative Christian networks and Fox News (which is redundant) will pump out a free commercial for the Christian alternative to Pokemon Go. Then the 100M or so authoritarian-minded sweatheads who listen to the likes of Pat Robertson will think they’ve done some good, when in fact the only thing they ever reveal is a lack of comprehension that humanism is how the world actually works.
Christian of the sweatheads variety remain in a perpetual battle with rational Christians, who maintain that the Bible uses metaphors to represent the spiritual truths of God. “That’s how Jesus taught,” rational Christians contend. “So it’s the right way to think.” Such metaphors as the “tree of life” and the “river of life” can be trusted to withstand all scrutiny because they don’t treat the bible as a science textbook or a Christian gaming manual.
Christian conservative never seem to get the fact that Jesus is actually mocked by their lack of confidence in the verity of the metaphorical interpretations of scripture. Instead, faux Christian hypocrites always behave with the same fearful, selfish, shallow approach to every issue. That’s what a literal interpretation of the Bible or the Quran or the Torah always produce. Jesus railed against the scriptural literalists of his era, calling them hypocrites and a “brood of vipers,” thus proving that Jesus might have enjoyed playing a good game of Pokemon Go.
Conservative faith is instead perpetually afraid of its own irrational shadow, imagining Satan into existence through its own perverse interpretations of the bible. The Book of Revelation is an especially fertile field for this bit of conservative gamesmanship. That’s how we get predictions of the End Times and all that Left Behind stuff foisted on the world by the likes of Timothy LaHaye.
It all works by creating a tapestry of virtual fears, making some Christians believe in the imaginary boogeymen lurking in the real landscape of history. The reason Christians hate games like Pokemon Go is simple competitive jealousy. The fear-based messaging of the priests in Jesus’ day became the target of his criticism. But authoritarians in the modern era, just like the priests of old, still see themselves as having gotten things right. “Forget that weird prophet in the wilderness, or the one who ignores the rules given to us by God. He does not have truth on his side.”
It’s a game still being played to this day.
In the meantime, Pokemon Go actually does represent the first Virtual.Reality iteration of the next generation. It stamps a virtual world onto the real world. And that’s a pretty novel approach.
It borrows from the geocaching trend from 15 years ago, in which families traipsed around parks looking for stashed cylinders and boxes. You had to use a GPS device to do that.
Now, thanks to the evolution of smartphones, that GPS stuff is all built into your typical iPhone or Droid, which makes Pokemon Go the Google Maps of late teen and 20somethings tomfoolery. Whatever device you engage to go catch Pokemon, it all depends on the satellites we’ve thrown into space (with a ton of other space junk) to send Pokemon data into real places on earth where kids can go to “find” them. Hence: Virtual.Reality. I made that up, you know.
Where Pokemon cannot go
But there’s one place where Pokemon hunters cannot go. That would be your local high school track. Because over the last 15 years, running tracks have been turned into virtual prison facilities where only a small section of the public is allowed to go.
All those tax dollars the public spends on school facilities such as high school tracks are locked up behind tall, tall fences. Some of these fences stand twelve feet high and are made of tightly woven chain link so you can’t even get a toe grip and climb over.
We all understand the supposed reasons why schools are supposedly forced to lock up their track and field facilities. Vandalism on many public properties is a never-ending problem. We all know how complex the vandalism problem can be. Just look at the recent militia dustup with those property bandit ranchers and the damage they did to the wildlife refuge at Malheur in Oregon. Some selfish turds think they stand outside the law, and don’t answer to anyone. But despite their claims of acting for a higher purpose, they’re wrong. The same held true for Oliver North and his pack of bandits committing high crimes in the Iran-Contra affairs. There’s always someone claiming a higher purpose than the mundane affairs of government and the law, who don’t like fences if they stand in the way of their selfish interests. Ironically, many of these same people seem to want to build a wall all along the Mexican border. One might call that “reverse vandalism” of the nation’s best interests.
As for protecting high school tracks, I do specifically recall the year a pair of kids jumped the four-foot fence and dug a BMX dirt jump right in the center of the football field at Geneva High School. That was supremely stupid. But also rather typical of vandals as a whole.
Within a year, the school had erected eight-foot fences around the entire track and field complex, effectively blocking a community of runners from using the facility.
Years later, they also installed an artificial turf field. Such are the defenses against vandalism. Is our government right or wrong to commit such resources in these instances?
Having harmless fun
Years ago a band of us bored with three weeks of education at a seminar in Irving, Texas decided to jump the gates at the Texas Rangers stadium and get onto the field to run around. It was fun. No harm done. But had we been caught, there surely would have been arrests made. And so it should be. Private property is just that. Private. No admittance except upon permission by the owners.
Yet there’s a wild side of my nature that resists such orders. Years ago my brothers and I frequently trespassed in a natural area to go birding. It was owned by a peat bog mining company at the time, and used in fall and winter by hunters. The property has long since been purchased by the county as an Illinois Nature Preserve along with thousands of acres around the main marsh. The public now owns the land. And as such, there are rules that govern the property, such as no ATVs or snowmobiles allowed. Surely that disappoints some potential users.
Quite often public properties are focus for concerns about issues of litigiousness as well as damage. If someone gets hurt or dies on school property, for example, there is always a chance for a lawsuit. This is not a government problem, but quite the opposite. The selfishness of individuals who either don’t respect property or can’t take responsibility for the risks they take in life is what drives so many lawsuits.
So there is a degree of irony in every chain link fence surrounding running tracks. Crawling over those fences is a risk unto itself.
Even when our local school created an eight- foot fence around the track, I’d still climb over it because I lived a half away. I figured that I paid taxes and there was a right of some sort that went with that obligation. But had I fallen and broken my back? Well, some people might sue…
I’ve even read about thieves and robbers that have sued property owners because the intruders hurt themselves while breaking into a store or commercial property. My late father-in-law was vexed by the fact that some people who bought his hydraulic presses would take off the safety guards, resulting in the loss of limbs by machine operators. Those incidents brought lawsuits.
Pokemon Go risks
It’s long been said you can’t protect people from their own stupidity. And it’s just a matter of time before some kid with his face stuck to his phone walks into a busy street while playing Pokemon Go and gets nailed by a garbage truck. The headlines will scream, “POKEMON GO PLAYER DIES IN TRAFFIC.”
And that will be sad. And the family will probably sue the Pokemon company and try to get a million or two dollars for the loss of their son or daughter.
But there’s one place for sure where no kid will ever catch Pokemon. That would be the center of the infield of a high school track. The twelve-foot fences will never allow it. And that Pokemon is a crafty smart little bastard. How else would he ever kid those lazy ass kids off their couches to come find him?
Freedom to run
These days I run at a middle school track where there is no fence to block us from using it. Last year we were joined by a pair of sandhill cranes feeding on the infield. Something about training in the presence of those birds made it extra special. There is a pair of hawks that perches on the power line poles overlooking the track as well. Swallows of three different species dart over the infield. In spring one can hear chorus frogs singing in the ditches across the street. These are my Pokemon Go partners. I find them everywhere I go.