And now for something completely different. Sort of. The psychology of Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Go. It has consumed my every waking hour. Well, the ones that aren’t spent feeding people, on hygene, playing other video games, working on my dissertation, and eating pancakes. I love pancakes.
And look! It’s not password protected! My dissertation is coming along apace. I hope it continues to do so. So many variables, but I have written all the chapters and now have to do a bunch of editing, smooshing together of sections, APA fixing, and appendixes and such. Still, written! Woo!
So, Pokemon Go. First I downloaded it because I was curious and another friend had just started. Then I got super obsessed. Then I joined the Facebook Groups for Austin and found out how obsessed one could truly be (in the absence of kids who prevent you from abandoning them around midnight to troll for pokes at the Texas capitol which is THE BOMB for pokemon go. Ahem.)
Several of my mom-friends are obsessed as well. Oddly, less dudes, though some of them (my husband) are getting into it. My daughter even got her grandfather addicted.
So “addicted” implies negative stuff. And there are plenty of risks, as corporate news has already exploited. Obsession, car accidents, walking off cliffs, blah blah blah. I’m going to explore it from a first person phenomenological (what I experience it as) perspective.
- Obsession. Like any online interest, it can make me a little jumpy and neurotic. Too much time spent projecting my consciousness into cyberspace has a tendency to feed on itself. Once I get into the cycle, I have a hard time getting out. I have a particular problem with this in the evening when I should be winding down. Luckily there’s not much pokemon activity in my neighborhood, so I don’t spend much time with it after dark.
- Flip side – My husband has been riding his bike all over the neighborhood and has gotten significantly fitter. I don’t ride bikes, but I’ve been doing a lot more walking. Carrot; meet stick. (in the form of fictional critters made of ones and zeros. Weird.)
- Lowering of inhibitions. Yes, I surreptitiously load up on pokeballs at pokestopsin my car, if traffic isn’t too fast (never on the highway) or the road is empty. I usually pull over if I need to catch some rare poke critter. I predict that cops all over the country are going to figure this out very soon and start issuing tons of (probably well-deserved) tickets for people fiddling with their phones while driving. The hands free laws in Texas are less enforced than elsewhere, but I doubt municipalities will resist this potential cash cow.
- The flip side of lowered inhibitions: I HATE being outside in the summer. H A T E . It’s so flipping hot, bright, and humid. Bugs. Mosquitoes. Ants that bite. This August, we got tons of rain, so the temps are about 10-15 degrees lower than usual. I’ve spent a ton of time doing stuff outside alone, with the husband, with the kid, or with friends that involve me moving around, sweating, and not really caring because I’m having fun.
- Acquisitiveness. While I’m no neurologist, I know that my brain likes it when I buy, am gifted, or find stuff. In the short term, new stuff=happy. Pokemon Go allows you to “win”, find, and buy stuff which can build into more stuff. It really gets to that wanty place in the brain. Is this good or bad? As always, it depends. If it gets me and my family out of our rut and out and about doing new things (which it has), I’m going to put this on the positive side. However:
- Flip side – you can make in app purchases. It is very easy to rationalize using hard cash to buy fake money to buy fake stuff. I fell into this trap in another game and after I came to my senses, I vowed that I would not do any more wanty in-app purchases. (Only the ones that add functionality to a utility type app, and only then with some serious consideration.) It’s essentially gambling, in the sense that you spend some money on items like lures or incense (short term things that attract extra pokemon to your location), and you may or may not get any pokemon of “value” out of it. Other purchases can speed up your rate of egg hatching-the only way to get out-of-region critters. So this is potentially and endless suckhole for money if you have a hard time controlling those impulses. Beware.
- Relational stuff. Yes, you can become sucked in and ignore your relationships blah blah blah. While I have been known to snap at my kid for not catching all the pokestops while I’m driving (whoops), in general this has created some new friendships for me and some new activities for my family. It’s pretty fun to have something we’re all interested in. My husband and I have very different interests, and the ones we have in common (sci fi and superhero movies, innovative restaurants for example) aren’t age appropriate or interesting for the kid. So we’ve been doing way more stuff as a family, which I call a win. I have a couple of friendships that were more casual that have moved on to the “hanging out together” phase because of the game. We’ve also started to solidify some family friendships in the same way.
- Health. I’ve mostly covered this, but from a personal standpoint, being outside is really good for my body and my psyche. I was cooped up inside for most of the spring, because pollen counts were high and I was plagued with chronic asthma. Every time I would spend a few hours outside doing something fun, it would get worse. It sucked. In spite of being in the midst of the shitshow that is the end of the dissertation process, I’m feeling more energetic and balanced. My husband, who needs to keep his weight low to keep pressure off one messed up and one fake hip, has lost 15 pounds from tooling around on his bike at all hours. The kid is mega-stressed from the first few weeks of school, but dragging her around to pokemon-heavy parks has really helped her unwind. My social life has expanded. I’m going to go with WIN.
So there you have it. My experience of Pokemon Go, while fraught with the usual risks of video game play (minus the social media trolling and sedentary effects), has been pretty fun and generally good for my overall mental and physical health. The media, as usual, is painting as entirely binary. It’s not. Nothing is. But if you decide to start playing, let me know. The next release is supposed to include trading!