“Catch ‘Em All” Not a Court Case!

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Pokemon GO has been a blast! Sure the game freezes when catching a high CP Pokemon, my GPS location gets “lost”, and I always seem to be “too far away” from a Pokestop, but I am still enjoying myself. Us Pokemon trainers have walked many miles and went through many Pokeballs to catch those very difficult Pokemon. However, I am a disturbed by the behaviors a lot of us are displaying, myself included. I have come across articles such as, “Pokemon GO Player crashes his car into a tree“, “Men Fall from cliff playing Pokemon Go“, and this one from my alma mater, “Pokemon Go players robbed on University of Maryland campus.” I stand firmly in the belief that Pokemon GO is a wonderful game in concept, but we are not in the reality to properly enjoy it. Anyway, it is here now, so we all have a duty to ensure that we are catching these virtual pets responsibly and safely. From my observations here are some bad behaviors that we should drastically change.

1) Please do not blindly walk through traffic staring at your phone

This is not just a problem that has occurred due to playing Pokemon GO, but a problem this internet connected society collectively needs to fix. It’s dangerous! It’s dangerous! It’s dangerous! You cannot catch that Pikachu while you’re in the hospital…or maybe you can!? That’s besides the point. Just be aware of cars before you cross the street and while you’re crossing it.

2) Walk in groups and play within crowds

Okay, so this is a little tricky. For those of us who are able to go with friends or other trainers please do so, especially at night. I would say go in a group of 4 or more. Again, this is all about safety. If you do not have companions to go Pokemon hunting with then you explore at your own risk. Just be vigilant! Personally, I walk with at least one friend during the day if I can and at least 4 or 5 if I Poke-hunt at night. For full disclosure, I do not do pre-plan hunting nights. It is always when I am already out that night with friends that we go out to catch Pokemon.  Lastly, catching Pokemon in crowded areas such as a mall seems fine to do, but still be vigilant regardless of the location you are at.

3) Do not block foot traffic when catching Pokemon

It is just common courtesy to not stand in the middle of the sidewalk when you know there are other people walking behind you. To save battery, when you tap the screen to capture a Pokemon disable the “AR” (augmented reality) functionality. Disabling the AR function puts the Pokemon in a fixed position, therefore allowing you to capture the Pokemon as you are moving.

4) Do not leave your personal belongings unattended

Just the other night, I was catching Pokemon with friends at a very popular spot on campus. There were many Pokemon trainers out that night. As I sat slightly upset that my phone was dying I noticed that someone left their purse unattended on a bench. A whole 2 minutes went by before a woman came over with her kids to grab the purse and left. I believe it was her purse, but hey I will never know for sure.

5) Do not catch and drive.

Just don’t do it! If you have a passenger in the car, then let them keep track of nearby Pokestops and Pokemon. Endangering your life and others is not worth capturing virtual creatures.

6) Do not let team pride divide us.

I get it. People love seeing their team flourish which comes with the occasional trash talking about other teams. So far I have not seen a headline saying that an all out brawl occurred because someone did not put any #repseck on other person’s team. Though the memes are hilarious, let’s just keep it friendly.

7) Try to catch ’em all on public property not private.

Look. People are already on high alert and suspicious of everyone that walks by them. The last thing you want to happen is that you are being interrogated and/or arrested because you wandered onto school grounds or someone’s residence. Do not let the thrill of the hunt get you in trouble. Try to catch ’em all meaning Pokemon, not a court case.

I am sure there are many more behaviors that need to change, but these are the main ones I have witnessed and/or heard about. Unfortunately, robbers will still be out there ready to steal from players, but we can mitigate the risks of that happening by walking in big wolf packs. Now let’s play responsibly and safely. Peace out, there is a Dratini outside!

Pokemon GO: Black Reality interfacing with Augmented Reality

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Pokemon GO is great! This game has millions of gamers and counting from around the world investing their time and battery life into catching Pokemon. This augmented reality game has created a mass movement of exploration and collaboration amongst a community stereotyped as anti-social, non-active basement dwellers. I cannot remember the last time I went outside to walk around and actually felt a sense of discovery.

I decided to start my adventure at a park with a friend who lives nearby. Her and I walked around for about 30 minutes in 90-degree weather to capture Pokemon ,and do battle because the park was also a gym (a virtual arena for Pokemon battling). As we were hard at work becoming Pokemon masters there was a young woman, college-aged, sitting on a bench. Eventually, she walked over and asked my friend and I, “Are you guys playing Pokemon GO?” After responding yes, I took a moment to reflect on what just happened. Isn’t weird to ask a random person what they’re doing on their phone? I followed up by asking the woman, “What level are you?” I do not remember what she said, but she was at a good level with some strong Pokemon.

My friend and I continued walking and headed towards our local university to see what Pokemon were lurking on school grounds. We stayed on campus for about 40 minutes nabbing Pokemon while noticing the many groups of students closely watching their screens and praying to catch something good. It was an amazing sight to see.

Let’s fast forward a couple days later. I decided to grab a smoothie before I headed to my friend’s place again. With smoothie in hand, I hopped on my bike and started my trip back. As I was biking, I passed a police officer who turned out of the parking lot from the campus police station. No words or eye contact were exchanged between the police officer and I, however this overwhelming sense of fear and disgust loomed over me. I slowed my bike down because I noticed I had been staring at the police officer for at least 5 seconds. To be clear, I have nothing against that particular officer. But the institution that he is apart of is what stunned me.

On July 6,2016  I heard about the tragic death of Alton Sterling due to police brutality. I shook my head in disappointment, but went about my day as usual. As my mother drove me to work the next, I heard about the death of Philando Castile on the radio. That is when I mentally checked out from reality. My mother was explaining how she felt, but I was not listening. I wasn’t listening because my heart hurt to much. I wasn’t listening because I felt no one was listening to those you are calling for an end to this kind of injustice and disregard for human life. I wasn’t listening, but I was enveloped in fear and disgust. I have a Scrabble-like game on my phone in which I use to get my brain jump-started in the morning. However, it was different this time. Way different. The game was no longer a tool to enhance my vocabulary and response time, but a filter to channel my anger, my fear, and to hold back my tears especially, since my mother was right next to me.

On July 6, 2016 Pokemon GO was released in the U.S. Pokemon GO was also released in a reality that does not deserve it and/or can handle it responsibly. From the time of this post, there was the horrendous Dallas police shooting, people robbing Pokemon GO players, and many accidents happening due to people’s impulse to pay more attention to the game then the road. Pokemon GO is widely accessible, and still being released in other territories, but who has the privilege to play it without worrying about anything?

I am a 22-year-old black male, a recent graduate from a well-known institution, and heading to graduate school to become a Doctor of Philosophy in Informatics studying videogame culture. However, none of that matters because my skin color is all the information a racist officer needs to interrogate me. That is all the background an officer needs to ensure that my day is ruined and life feels threaten in the midst of their power.

Pokemon GO is all about exploring your environment and hopefully leveling up with friends. It’s just too bad that I cannot explore my environment in a comfortable state due my blackness. It feels miserable to spend more time wondering where law enforcement are rather than focusing on where a Paras, an Oddish, or Venonant are located. Black Pokemon GO players are playing two games at once; the augmented reality game of capturing virtual creatures and the physical reality of the pressure to look non-suspicious and non-threatening. The game of chance of catching a rare Pokemon and the game of life of not getting arrested and/or killed because of America’s racial bias towards black bodies.

As the days go on and as I do my best to catch them all, I have to be even more aware of my surroundings. I have to be cognizant of the fact that I am not seen as a student or a gamer first, but a criminal. I will still go out and strive for excellence in all sense of the word, but I must be aware that everyday outside could be my last. That a traffic stop could be my final stop. Pokemon GO is a privilege for many, but a risk for some. I wonder, is spending hours in virtual spaces hindering my life, or ensuring that I can see another day?