Over the last week, Pokemon Go has successfully replaced Trump, Clinton, and even the Kardashians in the news cycle.
The game is the hottest “new thing” in a world that embraces “new things.” We call it “viral” now days… a word use that would prompt face-palms from the Civil War generation. The best I can offer as a guide to this crazy game is an article from Vox. (With some luck, the aide-de-camp has not expressed an interest in the game… yet!)
There are a lot of rocks being thrown at the game and the gamers. Tales of gamers running off cliffs or getting hit by cars in the obsessive quest for little virtual characters. And beyond the physical world, there are some virtual security precautions that participants in the game should consider. Tales of woe that give pause for anyone… anyone above the age of 25 without a YOLO-death-wish outlook on life that is.
But that’s the down side. And the aspect that gets much play in the news.
There is an upside. Consider:
The National Park Service could, with justification, make a “No Pokemon Go” stance. But Director John Jarvis opted to encourage the activity with caution. And I like the hook in the end to “find” a park along the way.
Yes, there is a risk that in pursuit of Pokemon creatures someone will wade into the World War II Memorial or traipse across a National Cemetery. But those egregious possibilities aside, is there anything wrong with the pursuit of Pokemon across the battlefield? I’m inclined to say there is not. Those fields are set aside for us to walk over and consider. Some go there to consider the acts of war that took place. Others go there to consider the wildlife. And others go there for reasons far removed from the original intent of these parks. We’ve come to accept those reasons so long as the acts are compatible with the primary goal of the park.
I don’t see anything particularly unsettling with a group of kids running across the battlefield, so long as they are safe. Certainly less obtrusive than some other uses that come to mind. And as the director alludes to, such just might open eyes to the greater purpose of the park system.
And that brings me to another aspect… an upside, if I may suggest… to the Pokemon Go craze. The game actually uses a system of what they call PokeStops, were these creatures – the goal of the game – are located. Virtually that is. From the IGN wiki on the game:
These will be located at select places near you, such as historical markers, monuments, and art installations.
In layman’s terms, these physical placemarks serve as an anchor point for the game’s augmented virtual reality. SciFi folks might call them “portals” into the game. How ever you want to spin that. The bottom line is the game pulls in the coordinates of many public exhibits and features to build a virtual game playing space.
… And one of the inputs to that list of coordinates is the Historical Marker Database (HMDB). Gamers being gamers will always look to out game the game. So if these virtual creatures seem to live around historical markers, what better to do than go looking for historical markers? The owner/editor of HMDB tells me use of the website went up three-fold last week. Pokemon Go players are hitting the site and use the “markers nearby” feature to move among potential PokeStops.
Now, one would hope that some of those visits to PokeStops involve pauses to read the marker, consider the memorial, or appreciate the art. We know that even without Pokemon creatures about, only one in about fifty of the average visitors will stop to do that anyway. At least for those in quest of Pokemon, they are consulting a list of what is nearby. So it is not all bad.
Indeed, an enterprising mind could well see opportunity here. What if the participant’s chance of catching said virtual creature was enhanced by display of knowledge of the historical site (or other such criteria relative to the physical site)? What if someone flipped this game format to something other than a quest for Pokemon thingys? You know, sort of like a scavenger hunt of old?
… my mind wonders back to my youth and days spent hiking Shiloh on the “Cannon Trail” to earn a Boy Scout patch. Mind you, that’s a major reason you have this blog to read….