Like fireflies, the cell phones flit off and on along Memorial Boulevard down by the Vietnam Veterans walk.
Cell phones are what people are using to catch Pokemons as part of the new Pokemon Go app phenomena that rages around the world and all across Bristol.
Pokemon, a long-time favorite that started as a game for kids using playing cards and that evolved to video game, took a next step becoming a mobile app this past weekend. The app is still in beta, but it is available around the globe.
Once downloaded onto a cell phone, the game uses GPS technology and a phone’s camera to create a visual world where players can locate and capture Pokemon anywhere in the world, including Bristol.
Even in your living room.
For instance, by the end of an evening playing the game with the 27-year old, we had a picture taken in our living room of my wife, patting a Pokemon on the head.
The creature might as well have been a guest.
It was during dinner on Sunday night, when the 27 year old announced plans to check out the area for Pokemon, and I asked if I could join him.
We walked up Goodwin St. and before we made it to the next driveway, my son piped up.
“Here’s one, now,” he said.
I had no idea what he was talking about, but he showed me.
“Here,” he said and held out his cell phone.
On the screen, I could see a Pokemon, they all have names, but I won’t go into all of them, standing right in front of us.
The 27-year old then explained how he could switch from a grid background, similar to using a map, to the camera that put the Pokemon on our front lawn.
Just like that.
After showing me, he switched back to the grid, and “caught” the Pokemon using a Pokemon ball, sending the Poke Ball from the bottom of the cell phone screen with a flick toward the Pokemon.
One toss, two tosses.
“Got it,” he said.
And then he waited, he said, because sometimes the Pokemon escaped from being captured in the ball.
I learned then that it does take some skill and timing to capture a Pokemon.
Further along on the walk, when encountering “stronger” Pokemon, I watched as one broke free and had to be re-captured.
Another Pokemon escaped by breaking free of the ball and running away.
I am not quite sure what the goal of the game is–but I think it is catching enough Pokemon and strong enough ones to win fights in combat areas with gymnasiums populated by Pokemon who have taken them.
As with all video game type activities, accumulating points is important, capturing Pokemon is important, collecting is important, winning battles is important.
Not far down Stearns St., we not only encountered Pokemon but Pokemon Stops where a player gathers Pokemon accessories–balls, incense and other stuff that can be used to lure and capture the virtual creatures.
At one point, the 27-year old stopped me to show me a gymnasium, which he decided to pass on because his Pokemon were not battle ready.
Past Federal Hill Green, more Pokemon.
Then down Bellevue, where I could see other people out for walks, phones before them, chatting with each other and flicking what I knew were Pokemon balls across their cell phone scenes to capture Pokemon.
I called out to two couples on the east side of the street, who confessed they were hunting Pokemon.
From behind me came the voice from a guy, who admitted that he was already hooked on the game. His spouse/girlfriend just laughed.
They were heading downtown for something to eat, they said, but not playing at the moment.
The 27-year old and I headed down High St., then down Main, then to Memorial Boulevard.
But this time, night had begun to fall.
He said that he just wanted to check out what kind of Pokemon activity there was on the Boulevard before heading back up the hill home.
I knew from his explanations, there were indicators on the screen that helped locate Pokemon activity in the immediate area.
He said that it looked like there was some up ahead of us.
By this time, we crossed the path of a couple of kids on bikes, who obviously were playing–I could see them stopping, examining their phones, flicking and then riding on.
It was apparent after a few minutes, however, that Memorial Boulevard was a hot spot.
In the darkness, it didn’t take much to see that across from us on the Boulevard and further down on both sides lights were flicking from cell phones–like fireflies.
Down by the Vietnam Memorial was the most activity.
Individuals, couples, small groups of Pokemon hunters crossed the lawn, sometimes yelling to each other, “I got a …” fill in the name of the Pokemon.
The 27-year old said that he thought someone had used a lure to bring a bunch of Pokemon from the virtual world and people were just scooping them up–the proverbial fish in a barrel.
Soon we were on our way home, he catching more Pokemon and explaining their characteristics and how they could help him when he decided on combat. There was other stuff.
In the quiet moments, because we were on a walk, I thought about how, at the least, the Pokemon Go app got people away from the computer or video gaming system and outside.
That was a plus.
I also thought about how several times, cars stopped in the road, and it was apparent that the people inside were also playing the game. Not a good idea.
I even thought about whether it was inappropriate for people to be playing by the Vietnam memorials.
I did not reach any conclusions.
Then we were home and in the living room, when the 27 year old called out that there was a Pokemon right in our living room.
He called, “Mom,” as I watched over his shoulder the scene unfold on his cell phone screen.
There was a yellow creature, across the room in front us, standing on our living room rug, with our snack table in the background, and then Mary in view.
The 27-year old instructed her to put out her hand so that it finally landed on the creature’s pointy head–she was patting him on the head.
And the 27-year old snapped the picture.
So, there it is, the virtual world breaking through into our world.
Or is it the other way around, us breaking into the virtual world.
However, you look at it, it’s a new world.
Copyright (c)2016 David M. Fortier. All rights reserved.