Photo by Zach Watson.
Pokémon sign outside a restaurant in Ballard.
Warning to All: Pokemon Go Ruined my Life
The rain’s coming down in sheets. I’m sitting just barely out of it under the closed entrance of a Subway, covered in a black trash bag, feet sticking out, my big toe breaking through the sole of my left shoe. Nowhere to go, nowhere to walk to without getting my feet wet.
I had never thought of it as an addiction until lately, from this rain, from this recurring dream I’ve been having of eight bit polyphonic anthems and two-dimensional conquests of cutely named mythical creatures.
Kanto, the gym leaders, the elite four; I suppose that’s how it all began. With those blue cards strewn over of an eight-year-old’s floor, my Game Boy out of batteries from playing too much, the red game cartridge sitting on my desk summoning me. It was fun then; winter breaks, spring breaks, summer breaks. Lazy days, pizza rolls, parents at work, comfy couches. Gotta Catch ém All!
It feels similar, sure, even the obsession with Mew. But back then it was easier. I just had to clean my room. I had to go to school. I had to do the dishes, mow the lawn. I had parents, real world obligations.
Now I was using my savings to hop jets to Yonkers to catch a kabuto. I lost my job because I missed a meeting to go to the Ballard Blocks to catch my hundredth pidgey. I even did puffy tip for a corner of the baggage car on an all night train to Raleigh for a magnemite.
I resisted to play at first, even after I downloaded the app. But then one day I was out to lunch with some coworkers. We had been drinking, and Melissa caught a Bulbasaur on my head. They were all laughing so hard and Melissa was having so much fun. I couldn’t help but make an avatar. I called him Buffalo Joe. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon chasing the lure, skipping out of work, brainwaving on I-phone mind lock.
But it didn’t stop then.
I justified it all as exercise, as a way to meet new people, to have a reason to go for a drive. Everyone was doing it, too. All the cafés and bars were advertising stops for trainers. It just seemed so normal, so healthy, so badass.
The first week I lost fifteen pounds; not even the glitches could stop me. I was up all night roaming the streets, catching what I could when I could. Chasing the lure.
I got hit by a car; a dog peed on my leg; and I got stabbed. When I finally came home, fatigued, nearly ruined, I found someone else in my bed. My roommates had sublet it. My clothes were in a garbage bag by the door about to go to Goodwill. I grabbed them and traded the bag for a Seattle Dog.
So what did I learn from all this woe?
I learned that augmented reality is not entirely real. Those friends that I was making, that exercise I was taking, that oil I was burning was all for nothing, for a collection of cartoon dinosaurs. I didn’t make friends. We were just people engaged in a diversion and what we shared wasn’t a vis-à-vis connection, but a decaying social encephalon, the replacement of culture with shiny lights, smiles, and finger fun. We weren’t exercising; we walked to a place to stop and look down. We burned fossil fuels; we contributed to climate change; we were killing the earth for Pikachu.
Heed my advice! I urge those about to download and beg those already engaged in Pokemon-Go to think, to stop. It might avert a personal crisis. It might save the planet. It might save your fellow man. It might stop someone else from sleeping in your bed.
With Care for Humanity,