Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Pokémon Go Walk of Shame

When Pokémon Go was released, my geekiest developer had an awakening.  In fact, he used his shoes in a manner unseen before and left his bat cave to venture in the real world of virtual rewards.  
He ventured in Montreal seeking acquisitions and fame.  He discovered new leg muscles, walked all over the city late at night.  He arrived late in the office every morning. But this time from a physical exhaustion - not his usual fatigue acquired from playing all night on his uber gaming platform. He even met other hunters - giving him a new hope for connecting with mortals.
Of course I too took a puff of this most addictive form of treasure hunt.  But it is when I reached level 6 on July 22nd at 12:23pm, and upon lifting my head in our very hip tech neighborhood of the Mile End,  that I observed a crowd of people engaged in Pokémon Go on their way to lunch (the picture).  The zombification was real and palpable to those who had not been bitten. Then a feeling of shame came over me.  I did not want to be accused of being a Mareep .  I then opened the application in a manner that was discrete and concealed. The Pokémon Go had become an expression of personality weakness and blind conformism. Surely enough, the use of the application was dismissed dramatically in Montreal's ground zero of geekiness.  By the 26th of July Pokémon Go screens were rarely seen, and those who were engaged a week ago are now mocking and looking down upon those still using it.  It is so yesterday - the shame of being a week-old late bloomer.  


This is a fascinating tale of  how "too much too fast" can lead to a dramatic failure.  But it is so revealing of human nature.  This need to collect, lead, and be on the bleeding edge of the latest thing, is a demonstration of the recipe that drives us.  Even the most savvy techies were caught in this plot to exploit a generation's emotional childhood attachment to the Pokémon brand as a viral accelerator.  We don't mind being played, but this time the exposure was too great.  We now know that we can be truly aware of what seduces us.  We just don't like to be played and exposed for it. But more importantly, we demonstrated that we can reject it and remain in control.  But I challenge that it is the visible fast speed of change that fueled this rejection.  We are still vulnerable to the change that we can't notice - it creates a new normal that is unseen.  That is what gives an older individual perspective and retrospective to see the danger that lurks in the de facto acceptance and certainty of a younger generation.  We need cross-generational communication to protect our humanity and rights from a deliberate and undetected change designed to take advantage of us.  Not every innovation is delivered as rapidly as Pokémon Go for us to notice the absurdity of collective frenzy and blind buy-in.  We do conform and seek to be part of communities as a way to have a voice that is amplified to protect our rights, desires and some time unfortunately our sense of entitlement.  But in this case if and when I decide to open Pokémon Go, I will paradoxically raise my head to avoid the walk of shame.