I never wanted to catch’em all. In fact I never had any intention of catching any of them. But that changed for me like it did for many across the world when Pokemon Go was unleashed on the masses. As much a social phenomenon as it is a video game, Pokemon Go has put its claws deep into our collective lives by taking something that was already addicting (smart phones and social-media sharing) and adding cute monsters with adorable names. I mean for real, Squirtle, quit playin games with my heart. The popularity of Pokemon Go was apparent immediately when less than 48 hours after its launch every single news outlet from the radio dial to the news feed was hailing it as the biggest internet sensation since Twitter. As I would drive home from work I could spot people gathering at Pokestops and Gyms en masse. It blew up big and fast, just like Electrode.
It wasn’t long before businesses started to take notice and formulate strategies to take advantage of the swarms of trainers taking to the streets armed with Poke Balls and more importantly, their wallets. So when I saw that the Mall of America was hosting a spur of the moment Pokemon Go event, I called John on our emergency Mega Dads Hotline and we grabbed our shit and bounced OUT.
Now when you’re hosting an event that centers around a game whose purpose is to move around as much as possible, you’re not going to get a huge gathering of people mobbing one location. So these shots of the rotunda are a little misleading about the turnout of Pokemon trainers. The real story was told in the hands of shoppers moving through the mall all around us, chatting about rare finds and flicking their thumbs as they caught their latest and greatest. As a gamer it really is something awesome to see waves of people out in the world all enjoying the exact same gaming experience together. In fact, the game’s reach is so vast that it even managed to get a hold of both of our wives.
So with wives and kids in tow, John and I braved that world where most husbands dare not go. A land rich with skinny jeans and awkward tweens. All in pursuit of imaginary fantasy creatures that we can keep in our pockets. It was just as much a people watching experiment as a gaming session. To see how this game sits with gamers and casuals alike. Not since Wii Bowling has there been such an instant click with the general public. In fact it wasn’t even an hour into our Pokemon safari when I realized that our wives had been completely ensnared by Pokemon Go. The tables had turned as John and I, the gamers, we’re stuck chasing our trio of crazy kids through Best Buy as our wives zeroed in on a flock of Pidgies that had gathered yonder by an Orange Julius.
Our trip to the Mall was one of those rare great gaming moments where we were able to be part of something that more than likely will be a brief trend, but will be forever remembered as the big game of the Summer of 2016. We also were able to share it with our families. Pokemon Go is such an accessible and shareable experience that we could involve the whole family. John’s girls in particular love snapping AR photos with the Pokemon.
So in closing, I give both a ringing family friendly endorsement to Pokemon Go, but also a great big thumbs up to the Mall of America for being nerd ground zero for the day. Pokemon Go has truly given rise to a one of a kind gaming phenomenon, and this day will be one of those gaming memories that I keep with me for a long time.