Pokémon Problems

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Since the early days of mankind, games have been part of human life. If cavemen had a little free time, I suspect they huddled by a fire playing Pin the Tail on the Mammoth.

The game of chess traces back to the sixth century in India. When chess was invented, folks still thought the world was flat. Yet they nonetheless managed to create a game so sophisticated that most humans today still can’t figure it out.

I was in the chess club in elementary school. However, I never won a single match. In the ranking list on the club bulletin board, my name was at the very bottom – like the pathetic kid that gets picked last for dodgeball at recess. If I’m being honest, I must say that I didn’t mind. All I really cared about was the free pizza they gave us during the meetings.

It’s natural to seek diversion from everyday life – which can be boring and filled with annoying things like household chores, bills and presidential candidates. But I fear we might have gone too far in our quest for mindless diversion. Yes, I’m talking about the recent advent of “Pokemon Go.”

Pokemon is a popular franchise of video games, playing cards and television shows that features a multitude of little animated creatures. A couple of weeks ago, a reboot of Pokemon was launched as a smartphone app that uses GPS mapping technology to create a real-world scavenger hunt for the infamous cartoon creatures.

Armed with smartphones, millions of people are wandering around looking for Pokemon. If you see a group of folks huddled over their phone in a random place, this is most likely what they are doing. I’m happy that this game has caused people to partake in physical exercise – truly. But I’m a little concerned that, in the pursuit of Pokemon out in the real world, many people have left their brains at home.

Police departments have reported that Pokemon players are trespassing onto private property, crashing motor vehicles while playing the game and generally engaging in unsafe and stupid behaviors – like sticking their noses so far into their smartphone screens that they have no awareness of what is around them. Recently, two guys fell off a cliff in San Diego while hunting for Pokemon. I’m not making that up. Their parents must be so proud.

I’ve made no secret of my love of technology and my addiction to my iPhone, so I really have no room to judge. But a real world exists out there – full of potholes, cliffs and nasty people who would love to take advantage of you while you are too busy looking into your phone to notice that someone means to do you harm. Be smart. Be alert. And, for goodness sake, don’t wander into someone’s yard in the middle of the night looking for Pokemon. It really might not end well for you.

I think I’ll stick with chess, instead.

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