Having a social justice warrior meme group has brought people into my life who are serious about their politics and also fucking hilarious.
It's only been a couple of weeks since Pokémon Go first graced our smartphones. Within the first week alone, it was downloaded a whopping 15 million times by users across the globe. Thanks to its augmented reality feature, it's already become a fixed part of our digital culture: You can't walk three blocks without passing someone stopping mid-jog to catch a Rattata, and I swear last week I heard the sound of a bouncing Pokeball coming from a stranger’s iPhone.
It's clear that the app has taken the world by storm, and so it should have; it's fun, it's original, and it gets children and adults alike off their couches and into the sunshine. Children are fascinated by how their favorite characters can pounce onto their school desks like magic, and millennials have finally got the Pokémon journey we've always dreamed of in a device much smaller and thinner than the chunky Game Boy or DS.
It's brought people together too, and goodness knows what fun updates it will bring in the future. But, typically, we've found a way to ruin that fun. As a society we've shown time and time again that we just cannot have nice things, and this quaint little game has brought out the worst in people. But it's not the kids who are being bratty and childish, it's us adults.
Now I love the game, I'm glad it exists, and I'm certainly not blaming Nintendo or Niantic for this wave of misery, but there is a huge problem. The problem lies with my own generation. We're the ones ruining it for the children and the reputations of the game developers. We're the ones walking in front of traffic, holding up lines in stores, trespassing on private land, or setting lures to mug people down dark alleyways.
The consequences of obsessing over this game have gotten very dark very quickly. Within the past two weeks two men have fallen over a cliff's edge while playing; there was a literal stampede in Central Park over a rare Vaporeon; several people held up traffic on a highway and risked getting run over to catch a Mew; and there have been countless reports of trespassing, car crashes, people walking into walls, and much more. These acts of violence and disaster are just from people who are legitimately playing the game and don’t even take into account the various people taking advantage of the luring system to rob and assault people.
Obviously, not everyone who walks in front of traffic does so because they don't give a shit. I understand that not everyone who has gotten into an accident over this game has total control over it. No one deserves to die or be harmed because of a video game. But there is clear decision making in the act of deliberately pushing other people over to grab a Ghastly and barging into a kindergarten class to snatch a Sylveon.
I also don’t believe in blaming a game developer for the evils of humanity. Getting attacked while on a Pokémon journey is a consequence of the attacker, not a few computer coders in an office somewhere. That being said, there is a tiny part of me that actually does wish this game didn’t exist. I'm not going to pretend that some of these crimes and accidents wouldn't happen without Pokemon Go because, let’s face it, the robber who held his victims at gunpoint would have used another method to get them alone, and most people crash their cars while texting or swiping through Facebook, (which Pokémon Go has surpassed in user popularity).
Even when people are trying to be nice with Pokémon Go, things get dodgy. For example, there's currently a wad of people urging players to leave lures around children's hospitals, which sounds awesome at first; because there are a number of kids there who can't leave the building and desperately want to play. Now in an ideal world I'd be 100 percent for this, but when you see what the hospitals themselves have to say, and take into account that you're inadvertently leading trespassers into an area with vulnerable children, it's not such a good idea. Not only does leaving lures outside not help the kids that can't leave their rooms, but when setting lures set inside, your phone signal can actually mess with the equipment within the facility.
No one is saying that young and olde adults need to stop playing Pokémon Go, actually some of the media are, but I'm not. And no, #NotAllMillenials, but we know damn well that the majority of these problems are being caused by adults that severely lack the ability to put others before their own desires. I despise the stigma adults and teens get for playing kids games, for watching family cartoons like Adventure Time, or reading YA novels like the Spiderwick Chronicles. Age is just a number when it comes to enjoying innocent art, but these things are first and foremost things that belong to children. Its theirs first, and ours second, not because we're more mature, but because we're guests in their world, not equals.
We can't demand that Steven Universe become “more adult." We can't whine that JK Rowling didn't make the language and story structure of Harry Potter more complex, and we certainly cannot push kids aside when playing a game that was designed for them. When we #CatchAndDrive, we endanger their lives. When we name our gym Pokémon bigoted slurs, we expose them to harm, and when we lay lures down creepy alley ways “just to see what will happen” we set them up for kidnapping, assault, or worse.
So to my fellow millennials, and adults of all ages: Please stop approaching children you don't know when playing this game. It's scary for the child and their parents, even if you have good intentions. Please put your phone away while driving (yes, even at red lights), please set your lures in safe and easily seen areas, please stop trespassing in hospitals and playgrounds. Just let kids play. Considering it's their game, let them have it for a little while, OK?