Over the past couple of weeks, Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm. Even though we live in a society where about half of American adults play video games, I can't think of any other game in recent memory that has had this much of an impact, especially so soon after its release.
The only way it can become more of a cultural phenomenon is if somebody tops the music charts with a hit pop song about it called "Pokemon Fever."
So, naturally, as is always the case when something becomes popular, a bunch of people have to jump online to tell people how much they hate it.
Some of those people have legitimate concerns. Last week, a teenager from Flower Mound was bitten by a venomous snake, which he stepped on while distracted by playing Pokemon Go. Never mind the fact that this could could have been distracted by literally anything, including another cell phone activity or, heck, a book. Snakes have never, ever been antagonistic to humans in all of history, so obviously we need to be vigilant about what our kids are playing, or the next Pokeball they throw could be their last.
There's also the concern over people playing the game in places they really shouldn't, like a Holocaust museum in New York, the helipads outside of hospitals or, obviously, driving. Again, fair enough. You shouldn't do anything that requires you to take your eyes off the road while driving, whether it's playing a game, texting or, you know, taking a picture of someone in another car playing a game.
But then there's another sentiment that's been cropping up in various places, including our own comment sections at The Dallas Morning News: Games like Pokemon Go are for kids, so if you're playing Pokemon Go, you're either a child, you're jobless, or you're a virgin. Perhaps all three.
Is that true? Should people like myself have grown out of Pokemon the second we hit high school?
I'd like to respond to that question with one of my own: Did you outgrow sports? What about watching movies? Reading fiction? Watching TV? Listening to music?
Polls suggest that about 60 percent of Americans are sports fans. These people are likely to spend several hours a week, if not more, watching other people play a game that they themselves aren't participating in. Many of those fans will spend additional hours reading about the game's players, arguing with strangers online about rules and calls or watching highlights on one of many TV channels dedicated entirely to sports.
Most of these people were introduced to sports as a kid, either as a viewer or as someone who played Little League Baseball or maybe in a church basketball league. Do we look at sports as things made for kids? Do we think they should grow out of silly games and get real jobs? I mean, if you have time to watch the Olympics, you can't possibly have a career or a family, right?
Here's the thing: Success like Pokemon Go has seen doesn't just happen out of nowhere. The Pokemon series has been going strong for 20 years now, reaching millions of people worldwide. Kids who were 10 years old when the first games came out on the Game Boy are now 30. Yeah, their tastes have probably changed a bit. Yeah, maybe in addition to video games they're now also into alcohol, because they're adults and that's apparently what adults are supposed to be into according to society.
But Pokemon Go is a fun, healthy experience that has encouraged people to get out of their houses and meet up with other humans rather than stay inside binge-watching yet another show on Netflix. Trying to blame it for society's problems or limit it to a specific age group is like telling people that they're not allowed inside Disney World if they're over the age of 21.
So unless they're clearly hurting somebody else with their actions, maybe don't be so quick to judge somebody just because you can tell they're having more fun than you are. The game is free to download on your phone. You can just enjoy it with the rest of us.