Out of the basement, into the parks

The clever people who invented Pokémon Go obviously did not have my generation in mind when they launched the new smartphone craze that’s taking the world by storm.

When you give the name Snorlax to one of your ethereal and elusive characters, an oldtimer might be forgiven for assuming it’s some new bedtime potion to promote regularity. Kind of a high-tech Senokot® S for the prune brigade.

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be standing on my porch yelling, “Hey, you. Stay off my lawn!” whenever a throng of P-Go players roams through the neighbourhood, eyes glued to their rectangular screens.

And I realize I’m supposed to huff and puff about the idiots who will wander into busy thoroughfares, so wrapt in pursuit of cartoon combatants they don’t realize their lives are hanging in the balance.

To my eternal shame, the cynic in me says it’s just one more way Mother Nature has chosen to cull the herd. Without those weak links in the genetic chain that make the rest of us feel superior, what would be the point of having the Darwin Awards every year?

At the risk of having my Geezerhood membership revoked for not conforming to the stereotypes of my age and stage in life, I’m going to come right out and say it: Pokémon Go is a great invention.

Forget the theory that it’s an elaborate ploy by CSIS or Homeland Security to harvest your personal data. If it’s any kind of conspiracy, look to the mobile carriers who stand to reap gazillions in excess data charges.

Personally, I have no intention of downloading the app any time soon, or neglecting  meal times and other important calls of nature to play it, as a true devotee would. But it does have a certain appeal.

Granted, the game’s silly-looking animated characters lack the warmth and personality of a famous craze from my earlier days, the Pet Rock. And it may not have the squiggly charm of earlier fads, such as swallowing live goldfish, or stuffing hordes of college students into a phone booth.

Still, as mindless social fetishes go, this one actually has some merits.

For one thing, it adds a social component to a gaming culture that is often associated with obsessive-compulsive kids locked for hours in mortal electronic combat in the lonely depths of the family basement.

With this game, at least they’re out and about with clusters of their peers, visibly having harmless fun in public places. They’re not burning park benches, or spraying innocent walls with not-so-innocent graffiti, or slumping sullenly through alleys like zombie wannabes.

Equally important, they’re accidentally getting some physical exercise, walking for miles in pursuit of characters to capture at Pokestops and transport to a virtual “gym” to engage in point-scoring combats.

Along the way, they are getting to know their communities a little better. They may even help restore a sense of life to some public spaces that have grown sterile and uninviting over the years.

Even a diehard Geezer can’t argue with that.

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