You may have caught the news of the new must have, a sort of An App A Day bit of fluff – Pokemon Go – which has just been released in the UK. It is creating some noise. It’s a computer game where the app takes you outside hunting Pokemon, the phone beaming an image of the Pokemon when you find them I believe – as will become apparent I haven’t looked that closely at the detail.
And it is controversial. On the one hand it has some very desirable effects. You see, this latest plaything was brought to my attention by Elizabeth Barnes who blogs set Autism Mom. She has been singing this app’s praises as it has encouraged her son to leave his beloved computer screen and head off outside.
But two people have fallen off cliffs following their targets
the Holocaust museum has asked people not to use it inside and in one case this child’s plaything has ended up taking people into a sex shop
But just reading the word Pokemon brings a shudder. You see, Pokemon and I have a history.
Back in the late 1990s, before apps, before Xbox, before PlayStation even, we had Game Boys. Or should that be the children had Game Boys?
Are you old enough or young enough to remember these chunky hand held devices into which you slid a mini cassette? Super Mario was the main game I think but – and I’m guessing without checking that source of all wisdom, Wiki – sometime about 1997 the first Pokemon appeared. There were two cassettes available here in the U K – red and blue. And at the Lawyer’s primary school they began to be discussed as the game to have. He was 7 at the time.
We gave in. Like you do. I think that capitulation may have followed Pokemon cards and the swapping craze – do children still swap cards or is it some interactive swipe thingy now?
Anyway, he got one and began to play it. He did OK, for his age but he often got stuck and it fell to me to try and help him to move on. At this point in my life – aged 49 ¾ and running a department in my law firm – I read classics and went to the theatre in my spare time. I jogged and dug the garden and was generally up my own arse with pretension. So I wasn’t the obvious candidate to play Pokemon.
In 1998 I was granted a sabbatical from work, 3 months off after ten years a partner, a sort of recharge your batteries break. One contemporary enrolled in a fine art appreciation course in Vienna, another wrote a book on the bird life of Mali. I just wanted a holiday.
First up, we decided to visit some old friends in Bahrain. They’d been there for a few years, we’d said we go and now we had the time. It was the May half term.
Have you been to Bahrain? No? Surprise me. Ok, it was lovely to visit our friends but their kids were at school, they worked so we had a lot of spare time… I could have read more improving literature. Took up painting. Found a passion for Islamic Art. Scratched sundials in my shoes. Anything but become a Pokemon addict.
I told myself it was so I knew how to answer the Lawyer’s questions when he got stuck. I was ‘playing ahead’ to be ready to help him. I was intrigued by this latest passion and wanted to understand the socio-psychological impacts on our cultural and social structures. Bullshit. I was hooked.
I denied it, of course. Like any addict. I think I only really realised the depths to which I had sunk when I caught myself screaming at the friend’s four year old who had picked up the handset I was using before I had had a chance to save where I had got to. Note I still say ‘the handset I was using’ rather than ‘my handset.’ Technically I had bought it for the Vet, then five, not that she was allowed anywhere near it.
I played it to an end. I achieved that much. It told you how long you had taken to get there. the little number showed ’25 hours…’ and then some minutes and seconds. I don’t remember now. 25 hours. Over one whole day of my life. On Pokemon.
No one thought it charming, certainly not the traumatized four year old and his less than impressed mother. The Textiliste, as is her way, said little though her right eyebrow had a lot of exercise. I never tried again, never ventured close to a Game Boy. I don’t do any computer games. Ever.
I returned to books and later writing.
But with most of my social and, especially, familial faux-pas, revenge is a dish best served… It doesn’t matter the temperature, just so long as it gets dished out.
In 2000 we visited other friends in San Francisco. We decided to go to the cinema, both families. The children – 5 of them – wanted to see Pokemon, the Movie 2000. The adults didn’t. There was some worthy drama with Judy Dench and Ralph Fiennes on another screen. But the children couldn’t go into the cinema on their own. At least one adult would have to accompany them.
I didn’t argue. How could I? She would have given my guilty secret away in a heartbeat.
Anyway, how bad could it be?
The San Francisco Chronicle, in its (over-generous one star) review said (I may not have this exactly right)
Abysmally Bad; take a torch and your tax return, you will have more fun
Revenge, of a sort.