By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Carole Townsend

(Not So) Common Sense
I’m a little late hopping on the Poke-train
By Carole Townsend

Pokemon Go. That is the name of the game, these days. I’m a little late coming to the party, but the game became so popular, so fast, that I thought I’d better learn what I can about it. Never know when such knowledge will come in handy.

Now I remember Pokemon from when my children were young. My son was really the one who traded cards with other boys; the girls really never paid Pokemon much attention. I refereed more than one argument about card trading – arguments about who cheated, who took someone else’s cards, and which card had more value. Our youngest daughter really had no interest in Pokemon, except to insist on wearing a tacky Pokemon t-shirt to Picture Day in second grade. The Poke-phase of my kids’ lives seemed to come and go like so many other phases, but now it’s resurfaced.

Suffice it to say that my knowledge of all things Pokemon is limited to that simple drawing of Pikachu, the little yellow creature that graced my daughter’s second grade picture. There she is grinning from ear to ear, her two front teeth missing and her hair a mess. She never cared one bit about Pokemon; she just loved that tee-shirt because her cousin gave it to her.

On July 6 of this year, people in this country went crazy over a game called Pokemon Go. In just a couple weeks’ time, this game – an ingenious mix of GPS technology and millenials’ love of the childhood game and cartoon – swept across the United States like a virtual tornado, sweeping up young children, twenty-somethings and parents alike in its path. Of course being a reclusive writer, I heard about the phenomenon week before last, when a much younger writer wrote about the game in this very newspaper. 

I read her article and sure enough, I looked out the windows of our downtown Lawrenceville office to see groups of Poke-people walking behind their phones first this way, then that, seeking various Poke-creatures on the lawn and at intersections, even finding one on a desk in our office. They looked like a flamboyance of flamingos, or a mob of lemmings.

I don’t get it. I am trying, but I just don’t understand how people see the creatures on their phones, when they’re not really there at all. And I don’t understand how players capture the virtual creatures (is that the point of the game?), or what they do after capturing one. Are some characters more valuable than others? Are some harder to capture than others? Are some mean and some nice?

I have done some reading about the game and its players, and I must say that even the explanations left me more puzzled than educated. I read that one man quit his job so that he could play full time. The story explained that this man will rely on the kindness of his friends and family members to support him while he plays. I suppose that concept’s not really new; every family has that member who relies on others to support him, doesn’t it?

I read another article about how a New Jersey women got herself stuck in a tree chasing a Poke-character. The police had to come and get her out. People are stopping in traffic to play. A man was shot and killed in San Francisco while playing. A Japanese Olympic gymnast ran up a $5000 phone bill while in Brazil, just to play. And the country of Iran has banned the game. It’s banned in Iran, and I am just now hearing about it. 

I have to hand it to Niantic, the game’s creator. In just a few weeks, their game has captured the attention of the world, or most of it. I can’t think of another phenomenon that has gotten this many people off the sofa, walking around and talking to strangers. I suppose a few kinks have to be ironed out, like the kink that has people walking into traffic, climbing trees they have no business climbing, and playing the game while driving. Common sense will never win out over playing this game, it seems. Niantic will have to build in measures to prevent people from doing some pretty stupid things.

Well, that pretty much sums up my knowledge of the Pokemon Go craze. My generation has always fallen between the cracks when it comes to matters such as these. We never had computers in school, even the old dinosaurs that got going with the DOS prompt, yet we had to learn to use them in order to survive in the workplace. And as computers got smaller and more powerful, eventually shrinking to the palm-sized smartphone, I personally have relied on my children to help me navigate the tricky waters of technology. I’m not speaking for all fifty-somethings, of course; my husband is brilliant when it comes to being tech savvy. But alas, here I sit, no Pokemon Go app on my phone, working instead of capturing.

It’s better this way. I have no business being distracted while I drive. Facebook is enough distraction while I work. And I tend to become addicted to things that I find entertaining. If I ever got hooked on Pokemon Go, it’s very likely that I’d turn up someplace in Montana or California, wandering out into traffic and climbing trees to the best of my ability. 

And I’d never, and I mean never, be able to convince my family to pay my bills while I did all that.

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was published April 2016. It is the true tale of a crime that took place in Gwinnett County nearly 40 years ago. Her other three books are MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA & EXHAUST; RED LIPSTICK & CLEAN UNDERWEAR; and SOUTHERN FRIED WHITE TRASH. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national true crime radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she’s not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, children and the family. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.