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July 22, 2016

Pokémon Go And Our Obsession With Mindless Entertainment

Text by Natasha Sahjwani

Read this to unlock 100 coins at your next PokéStop!

“I almost ran out of my apartment in boxers to catch a Dratini… I think I may have a problem.”

Over the last week, the Pokémon Go epidemic (A Niantic developed augmented reality game) has created a wave of disruption across the globe. Making you reminisce about those days you sat together trading Pokemon cards and earn bragging points over having the Charizard or Blastoise. The newly-launched virtual version of the Japanese franchise, takes its tag line “Gotta catch ’em all” a bit too seriously by using location-based sharing to catch Pokémon strategically placed in your surroundings. Getting couch potatoes off their seat, the game also allows users to power up at ‘PokéStops’ and battle it out with peers at ‘PokéGyms’ placed at important landmarks. So, think twice when you hear someone say “I’ll meet you at the gym” next time.

Surmounted by peer pressure and FOMO, I succumb to joining the bandwagon of this slavish addiction. Overnight I become wary about what people are raving about as I spend my commute hunting for water-based Pokémon, habitually liking the umpteen memes popping up on my timeline or friends ‘Going’ to the PokéGo Bar Crawl nearby and even spending my leisurely lunch hour walking around the lanes of Colaba to cross ‘PokéStops’ and ‘lures.’

Just like the Zika virus which is caused by Aedes mosquito, Pokémon Go (caused by Niantic) seems to show similar symptoms. The coughs, when you think you spot a Pokémon while you eat a lunch by the window. The sniffles, when you couldn’t catch the rare Dratini. The joint pains you get when you’ve spent the last week walking 10 km to hatch an egg. The red eyes when you’re struck with mixed emotions of anger and sadness when your 450 CP Dodrio loses a battle at the gym. And then the sudden burst of Pokéfever, (which will most likely make you call in sick to work) hurtling you to the ends of the city to catch the rarest of them all. Safe to say we need to be quarantined to not spread the hostility of this further?

So, to what length will people go to be a part of this craze? Let’s think — the next hot job on the block is not a writer at Verve (Well, yeah, it still is) but to be a PokéHunter (No, seriously). Step aside ‘Netflix and Chill’, let’s make way for ‘Pokémon Go and Chill’ — the new-age Pokédates are now a new way of building a connection. It doesn’t end there…. How about some Pokémon Go beauty care packages, complete with face balm, deodorant, body fuel, eye repair and more for the skin worn out from a long chase?

As entertaining as it may be to run around the city and discover new places, the mindlessness of this collective obsessive behaviour knows no boundaries. Keep aside the fact that we are sacrificing our privacy, public safety, not to mention our cellphone batteries and data plans. But, most importantly, it suggests that humanity is playing a new game of doom. From our early obsession with Farmville to Candy Crush Saga, with augmented reality, we run the risk of zero barriers between the real and the virtual world. Do we wish to be fully functioning humans that contribute to society or are we going to be the kind that trips over dogs to catch a Bulbasaur? This decision should be easier than choosing between Team Mystic, Team Valor and Team Instinct.

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