It wasn’t even a week ago that my kids discovered the new Pokemon Go app (I wrote about it in Parents here). I watched them run around the corner excited and laughing, following their phones to discover the hidden Pokemon lurking all over our neighborhood.
I walked with them, amused and happy. My boys were engaged in an outdoor activity and getting along – no one was hitting anyone with a stick, no one was taking the ball away from anyone, and no one was crying that his brother cheated at something. I didn’t even mind that their devices were at the center of their attention. It still felt like a huge step up from them ignoring me while staring at our X-box in the basement. We were outside in the sun, wandering around and bonding like a family.
It seemed everyone we saw, from kids to moms to teens to grown men were all playing this game. Even when we went to dinner, we ran into waiters on break doing the same. It felt strangely like the world had gotten a bit smaller and we were all on the same team. Although as my son reminds me, there are different teams – blue, yellow and red.
I loved everything about the app last Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We strolled, we talked, we caught Pokemon, meeting friends and making friends all doing the same. But by Tuesday my boys, already pros, figured some ways to cheat, or at least how to cut down on the exercise part of the game, my favorite part.
“Hey Mom,” My middle son asked, “It’s kind of hot out. Why don’t you drive us down to the water, and we’ll walk around. And then we can drive to the library and then to the train station.”
These were all Poke hot spots to get free stuff. I eyed him skeptically but his big green eyes gave nothing away. It was kind of hot out. “Okay,” I conceded and they all cheered.
We drove to the water and my boys had me drive back and forth in the parking lot and then back around the block – Go left! No other left! Keep Going! You missed it! Go back! – The phone glitching a number of times before they were all satisfied that they had received adequate Poke loot. Next we head off to the library where they walked around the parking lot for a full three minutes before jumping back in the car. “Done,” My oldest announced, “Take us to the train station.”
“Excuse me?” I said, annoyed. We were no longer bonding. I had become the chauffer being bossed around, pretty much my typical life.
“No!” My youngest suddenly cried. “Mine isn’t loading!! I didn’t get anything!” He made a lot of grunting and whiny noises as I drove around in circles trying to find a good spot to help his phone – I mean my freaking phone! – work.
“Let’s just go,” My oldest compassionately suggested and my youngest screamed at him. After ten minutes of 8 year-old meltdown, the ridiculously overloaded server kicked in.
With the app reloaded and my youngest receiving an egg, some balls and yet another Pidgey; the Pokemon that needs some birth control since they are literally everywhere – “Mom! Don’t move there’s a Pidgey on your back!” – We head to the train station, a center spot in town.
My children run here and there collecting free stuff, capturing some Pokemon and almost running into people, while I yell for them to be careful of the street. It is around 5pm and others lurk doing the same. You can spot them immediately, hovering over their phone in little groups or staring at it as it directs them. There is also a ‘Gym’ at the train station. My boys have announced that it is weak and they are all excited to take it over.
“Guys we have to go,” I say, dampening the fun but I am hot and tired and needing to get home and start dinner. They ignore me, loitering near a grown man in a wrinkled suit tapping his cell madly.
“We’ll just stay here at the Gym,” my oldest says. “Pick us up when you’re done.”
It’s not a Gym I want to yell. It’s the middle of a street! And you are stalking a strange man! And I want my phone! “No,” I say calmly. “We’ve had enough Pokemon for right now. It’s time to go.”
My youngest starts whining. “My game froze again! They got so much more guys than me!”
“To the car!” I command and they grudgingly follow.
We repeat this experience all week; them obsessed, nagging and begging, and me driving with phones glitching, batteries dying and them whining and crying in frustration.
Then there are all these stories out there of people getting robbed or walking into trees, but I honestly don’t think there’s any real danger. The app is awesome, creative and fun, but I do worry a bit that this craze has obsessively overtaken my children and my town. It’s like a cult of zombies out there – Must find Pokemon!
I really wouldn’t mind if the app would just Go away, but it seems I stand alone. Everyone else is out finding Pokemon.
And while you’re waiting for your kids to lift their heads, check out my book, Secrets of the Suburbs – the perfect sexy fun beach read! – available on Amazon. Just click HERE! And… Murder Across the Street, click HERE. Yes! The suburbs are crazy! Sex, Murder and Pokemon, Oh my!