A couple years ago in March, Joyce and I took our then five year old grandson Jacob to the woods to look for shed antlers. Much to my chagrin, he insisted on dragging along his constant companion, a Kindle, (a scaled-down version of a laptop) on which he played video games. Things went well at our first stop, as he was rearing to go and left the Kindle in the truck without discussion. The second stop was a different story. From the moment I parked, he insisted on staying in the truck with grandma and playing his video game. I can be “fairly persuasive” but I was getting nowhere in luring him away from the video game and into the woods. I was about to yank the Kindle from his grasp and pitch it into the hayfield when grandma intervened, and her plea of “Don’t you want to find grandma an antler?” did the trick. I rather disliked video games anyway, just because I dislike playing games, but that incident rekindled my disdain of them. Now don’t get me wrong, Joyce and I like technology. I have a PC on which I write these columns, she has a laptop, and a Kindle, plus we both have smart phones. And I’m not totally anti-video game either; it just rubs me wrong when a child chooses that over getting out into nature and observing the REAL world.
Unless you live under a rock somewhere, I’m sure you’re heard or read about the new video game craze sweeping humanity right now called “Pokémon GO.” The original Nintendo Pokémon games first appeared in the late 1990’s and also took the world by storm back then. Pokémon are monsters that can look like rats, snakes, dragons, dinosaurs, birds, eggs or even trees. In the game, people known as “trainers” travel the globe to capture and train these creatures and use them to fight each other. The new Pokémon GO uses a smart phones GPS and clock to detect where and when you are playing the game, then makes Pokémon appear around you (on your phones screen) so you can capture them. As you move around, more and different Pokémon will appear, depending on where you are and what time it is. The game is being touted for getting players up and off the couch and getting them outdoors. It’s said that Pokémon GO fulfils a fantasy Pokémon fans have had since the original games inception; what if Pokémon were real and inhabited the world around us? The Kansas State Fairgrounds has reportedly become a Mecca for Pokémon GO players, and according to an official News Release by the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Pokémon “have been spotted at many Kansas state parks and nature centers.”
Ok fine, so this new game gets players up and off the couch and gets them outside. The problem I’m having with this whole thing is that ever since Noah docked the Ark on Mt Ararat, REAL four-legged critters have roamed the fields and woods, REAL fish have swum in the lakes and rivers and REAL birds have filled the skies, thus fulfilling the fantasy of being “real and inhabiting the world around us.” and even though you need the proper licenses to catch them, they have been available to pursue and observe since Noah’s arrival. And now it takes a video “game” to get everyone excited about getting outdoors? And why do Pokémon have to be monsters, and why does everything have to involve fighting? Can nothing excite us anymore unless it’s evil and monstrous in some way? And does anyone else see the irony here; that the very reason many kids hole-up inside (video games) now suddenly has them running outside in droves? This technology used by the new Pokémon where a game and the real world interact is known as “augmented reality.” The word augment means “to make or become greater,” so I guess the makers of the game want us all to believe they have made reality better? (Just when I think I have heard it all!)
I realize I’m showing my age here with this rant, but I fear society today, and especially our youth need a “reality” check, and need to be introduced or reintroduced to the real world around them. Yes, get outside and enjoy the new Pokémon GO with my blessing, but then come with me to the lake or to the woods and let me introduce you to some real world Pokémon that are not monsters, that inhabit the world around us and are available to find anytime WITHOUT your smart phone. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]