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Review: Pokémon GO And The City Of Churches

RAD LIFE

Review: Pokémon GO And The City Of Churches

Paul Maland

As you may have noticed by now, unless you've been living under a rock (or perhaps a Geodude), in recent days the entire city, and to an extent the world, has been overtaken with a sense of Pokémania that hasn't been seen since the early 2000s. 

Grown men and women of all ages are flocking to social and cultural hubs all over this fine, icy city in search of their favourite re-animated avatars of years past. Our sleepy town is seeing droves of zombified punters staring glassy-eyed at their smartphones in hypnotic trances shuffling around street corners, in main thoroughfares, at the Malls Balls, at shopping centres, swamps, cafés, bars, and anywhere in between you can imagine. Last week, over four-hundred players walked in the CBD only days after the game's Australian launch.

PokemonMallsBalls


Pokémon GO, like most things that cause anyone to meet up with strangers at train-stations in the middle of the night, is very interesting.

For the uninitiated: the app uses your phone's GPS to turn real-world map locations into hubs players can interact with to receive virtual items, where Pokémon (animated monster/pet hybrids) appear, optionally in augmented-reality through your phone's camera. Players capture Pokémon, train them, evolve them, and battle them at 'GYMS' — which, if you live in Adelaide, undoubtedly means Churches. 

A street-directory in 2008 listed 750 churches in Adelaide at the time. You can bet your bottom dollar almost every single one of these churches has either been turned into a gym (where players battle Pokémon for their respective coloured team), or a Pokéstop (where players collect items). The Mormon church at the end of my street, whose most exciting facility to my housemates and I before Pokémon GO was the large dumpster outside, has now turned into a site of man-child warfare at all hours of the day or night. Years ago, someone speeding to an empty parking lot a suburb over in a Holden Commodore in a fit of rage would've been something you'd find out about on the SA Police News page the next day — these days, it's because someone's scumbag Clefairy beat someone's Pikachu. 

Pokémon GO is almost like the exclamation point at the end of a decade worth of discourse about smartphone technology changing socialisation for the worse — cities of people standing together on trains, sometimes even physically touching other commuters, but staring into their phones to type out paragraphs rather than speaking a word in person. Pokémon GO has taken that to a whole new level, and given smartphone users who are often speaking using the same apps a geographic incentive to stand, instead, in the same physical locations. 

In a sense, users are now more connected than ever — both digital and geographical locales are synonymous in Pokémon GO. The strange contradiction is seeing hundreds of people standing in the freezing, icy winds at Glenelg's Mosley Square at 10pm at night with a common goal, yet in total social isolation from one another — the most discussion you can really have with Pokémon GO players at the moment is "Caught anything good around here?" to which they invariably reply, "Yeah, sorta".

Nice try, Mac Centre Norwood.

Nice try, Mac Centre Norwood.

The city is awash with this, in Rundle Mall, Glenelg, Hahndorf, and the state's largest shopping centre at Westfield Marion. You'll see them glued to their phones, walking in unison towards the nearest Pokéstop, sharing the occasional mutual cheer with a stranger to break the silence. A friend of mine even had one crash into her parked car (while she too was at a Pokéstop). Despite this weird contradiction, the feeling of community is heart-warming.  

Car-parks filled with running engines, packed with passengers, and parks and side-streets littered with nostalgic joy from everyone ultimately enjoying the day and nightlife with a common excuse to be somewhere really is a beautiful thing. A lure module on a Pokéstop at the South Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre had eight cars and twenty-five people show up at 12am on Sunday night, with more arriving to keep the module going, forming circles under otherwise empty streetlights to talk about their recent catch.

Even if it is all to catch animals that don't even exist, the sense of community sure is tangible right now. 

If you're in the mood for joining other strangers to walk through the streets catching imaginary pets, and even drink beers while doing so, there's seem to be a few events on next week in the city.

 

Pokémon Pub Crawl - Facebook event 

Visit various bars, pubs and clubs, all while picking up Pokemon and popping lures.
When: Saturday, July 23



Pokémon GO Adelaide meetup - Facebook event

A similar event to last week's CBD meetup, which had 400 attendees.
When: Sunday, July 24

Why: Pokémon, dude. 

Header Image via Pokémon GO; body images via Pokémon GO Adelaide, Mac Centre Norwood, Paul Direbear, Pokémon GO Pubcrawl