Exit 115. Seriously, just stop arguing and have fun.

So apparently everyone is talking about Pokémon Go. Let’s establish some basics right away: First of all, I have never played Pokémon Go.  And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m not an expert, but from what I can gather from talking to friends and reading about it, Pokémon Go is a game for smartphones where you actually walk around and explore the real world trying to find Pokémon.  Pokémon are characters from a series of video games, collectible card games, movies, and the like; they are little monsters that you can train to battle other Pokémon, or something like that.  The name was shortened from “Poketto Monsuta,” which is the Japanese transliteration of the English phrase “pocket monsters.”

The entire world has pretty much taken sides on Pokémon Go; either you love it or you hate it.  And as with many things, I’m somewhere in the middle.

I haven’t played it yet for a variety of reasons.  There are other things I’d rather do with my time at this point, and when the school year starts, this will be even more true.  Also, a lot of the most hardcore players are twentysomethings who played the early Pokémon video games and/or the Pokémon collectible card game in their childhood, and this new game gives them an opportunity to reenact those games in reality.  The Pokémon craze of the late 1990s and early 2000s was a little after my time, as far as video games go.  I have a small amount of experience with the card game, but this came far later, in my mid-thirties, during the time that I was in a really bad long distance relationship.  Acrux had learned the Pokémon card game from the kids she regularly babysat, and she wanted me to get a starter deck and learn the game.  I did so on my next visit, and she excitedly pointed out that, since players don’t actually take cards from other players in this game, we could play over Skype after I got home.  And, in the fashion typical of how things went in this so-called relationship, she never mentioned it again, and she always came up with some excuse why she didn’t have time whenever I brought up that I wanted to play.  The one time I did successfully beg her to find some time to play Pokémon with me over Skype, we only played one game, and I beat her in about five minutes.  I then played against her best friend, who was also there at the time, and that game took much longer… so the whole point of finally getting to spend some time with Acrux completely didn’t happen.  Frequent other non-Pokémon-related instances of her blowing me off when I wanted to spend time together is pretty much why we broke up, although that’s another story entirely.  The point I’m trying to make is that, unlike many of my friends who play, I don’t have those pleasant childhood memories of Pokémon.

But I’m not going to sit here and say that the game is evil, or anything like that.  If you play Pokémon Go, and you still prioritize your time so that you can be an adult and take care of your responsibilities (or in the case of children, do your homework), then good for you.  I’m glad you’re enjoying it.  I’m glad you’re getting outside, seeing the world around you, and making friends.  There seems to be a segment of the population who believes that any adult who plays video games, regardless of the surrounding circumstances, is inherently immature, childish, and irresponsible.  As much as I don’t always like to admit it, the world has changed, and video games are not children’s toys anymore.  I see nothing inherently more immature about an adult who plays video games compared to an adult who spends the same amount of time golfing, fishing, or watching TV.  Hobbies are great as long as they don’t interfere with your life unreasonably.

However, if you’re going to play Pokémon Go, stop acting like an idiot and/or a jerk.  Don’t dart out into traffic or jump off a cliff because there is a Pokémon there.  And don’t go around saying that this game is only for adults who grew up playing Pokémon as children.  No, it’s not.  Let the n00bz have their fun.  And if you just jumped on the Pokémon bandwagon recently, don’t act like you know everything, because there are people who have been into Pokémon a lot longer than you.  All of you, seriously, just stop arguing and have fun.

I haven’t ruled out playing Pokémon Go in the future.  I recently saw a coworker who is around my age playing.  She said that, since she is a middle school teacher, like me, she wanted to become familiar with the game so as to understand what the students are all going to be talking about this year.  At that age, it is important for the students to feel like their teachers can relate to them, and I totally get that.  So we’ll see.

P.S.: Do me a favor and stop calling them Pokermanz.  That’s just annoying.

Exit 72. Smart phones, dumb people.

As of today, for the first time ever, I have a smartphone.

I’m not going to get into what kind it is, or what features it has, or any of that, because (1) that’s beside the point of what I want to write about; (2) one of the things that bothers me the most about smartphone culture is the way people obsess over this sort of thing; and (3) if it ends up being a piece of crap, I don’t want to hear everyone’s I-told-you-sos and suggestions.  If I know you personally, I might be willing to discuss this in private.

There are a lot of reasons I held out for so long.  The main reason was that money was tight for a long time.  I was working at a private school, making a lot less money than I am now.  I didn’t have a lot of money left at the end of the month, and paying more to get Internet on my phone just wasn’t the top priority.  It seems like, over the course of the last several decades, life has just gotten a lot more expensive in general, as things that were once seen as luxuries for the wealthy are now expected to be necessities.

I also don’t like what I call smartphone culture, in general.  People these days seem to be obsessed with their phones. A lot of people don’t pay attention to their surroundings because they depend on their phones to tell them everything.  Smart phones, dumb people.  I don’t want to turn into that. Also, certain phone manufacturers even seem to inspire a cult-like devotion among their users.  People with perfectly good phones that work just fine line up for hours every few months whenever a new phone is released, so they can blow their money on something that’s half an inch longer and about 5% faster.  (I know, I know, there’s a dirty joke somewhere in that.)  It’s ridiculous, and it’s scary how phone manufacturers have been able to brainwash people like this.  I had a dumbphone that I bought in 2011 when it was already somewhat outdated technology.  It works just fine.  The battery typically lasts at least three days.  And I was paying $27/month for unlimited text and far more voice minutes than I ever used.  And people were constantly giving me funny looks, wondering why I had never “upgraded” to a phone that would cost about three times as much per month with 10% of the battery life.

So why did I suddenly get a smartphone now?  Because one thing I’ve learned about myself recently is that I tend to assume things and sabotage myself, and I’m not willing to try new things because of my assumptions about what things will be like.  Despite all my hangups about smartphones, there are plenty of times I’ve wished I had one.  I can afford it now.  Worst case scenario, if I hate it, I’ll do something else after a couple years. And as for turning into the kind of person who doesn’t pay attention, I don’t think that will ever happen to me. I held out on getting a cell phone of any kind until 2003 for the same reason, and 12 years of using dumbphones didn’t stop me from paying attention, so I don’t think having a smartphone will either.

Let’s see how this turns out.