TWENTY years ago, children would trade cards, religiously watch cartoons, and battle on their Gameboys as the Pokémon phenomenon swept through the 1990s, captivating a generation of kids.
Pokémon was the zeitgeist of the 90s, and now, two decades after the original game launched, Pokémon is back, bigger than ever.
And those children who were obsessed with the game? Well, they might have grown up a little, but their passion and intrigue for the game has not faded, and, if anything, has intensified over the past 20 years.
A new augmented reality app for smartphones, Pokémon Go, has recently launched in Australia and the United States, quickly surpassing popular apps Tinder and Facebook to become the most downloaded app in the world.
The Pokémon Go game is a free location based reality mobile game, allowing players to capture, battle and train their virtual creatures.
The app makes use of a smartphone’s internal GPS system and camera to create a virtual reality, in which Pokémon creatures appear to be roaming the streets of Wonthaggi and the rest of the world.
Passionate player, Bryan Mardling, cannot speak highly enough of the game, for a variety of reasons.
“It’s currently the most used app across the world now, having taken over Facebook and Tinder,” Bryan said.
“I think it’s mainly a nostalgic experience for people. Those of us in our early 20s, we grew up with the game as a kid, and now it’s back in a real-life way we once dreamed of.
“I can still remember running around my backyard with six tennis balls in a bumbag, pretending to capture Pokémon. Now it’s real life; it’s an augmented reality.”
Bryan, who founded the Wonthaggi Pokemon Go Facebook page as a place for people to swap information about the game relevant to the local area, says there’s a real positive social aspect to the app.
“It’s drawing people together from across town. There’s a sociability to it, unlike a lot of other computer based games,” Bryan said.
“There’s a hotspot for rare Pokémon down at the Inverloch jetty. Frequently there’s anywhere from 15 to 20 people sitting at the jetty, catching rarer Pokémon. And those people might not have interacted or gathered in such a way if it weren’t for the game.”
The game has received praise for surprisingly having a positive effect on the mental health of the users, as the app requires players to venture outdoors, exercise, and interact with other people.
An increase in exercise and socialisation is a well-documented way to assist in the alleviation of the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Bryan agrees with this.
“I think it’s a positive phenomenon. It’s pulling people out of the house, giving people positive interactions with other people. It’s forcing people to interact and to meet new people,” Bryan said.
“There’s a real depth to it. It’s more than just a game. Right now it’s a big craze, but I think there’ll be people playing this for a long time.”
Ben Sinnbeck, owner of Get Geeked Games and Collectables in Wonthaggi, is staggered by the popularity of the game.
“It’s taking over. It seems to be a real hit,” Ben said.
“It’s been a real ghost town in store here ever since the app launched, because everyone is out walking the streets, catching Pokémon!”
A Pokémon-themed trivia night will take place at Get Geeked on Thursday, July 21 from 6pm until 9pm, in celebration of the recent app launch.
But Ben has also extended a caution to players of the game, warning people to pay attention to where they are walking when out catching Pokémon, and to keep in touch with reality every now and again.
“Kids are spending more time on their phones as it is. I think they’re taking it way too seriously, and it’s taking over their lives,” Ben said.
Regardless of age, whether you are a new player to the game or a veteran Pokémaster, remember to always pay attention to your surroundings when using the app, and to not forget about the real world that exists outside of your phone screen.
When it comes to the attention of a generation of players and fans, it seems that once again, Pokémon has caught them all.
Police warn of Pokémon dangers
POLICE have expressed concerns regarding the risks to distracted drivers and pedestrians who are playing the latest smartphone game, Pokémon Go.
Over the past week, police in the Bass Coast area have received numerous reports from concerned members of the community witnessing vehicles stopping abruptly in the middle of roads and operating their mobile phones whilst driving in order to catch Pokémon and collect game resources.
Police would like to remind everyone that it is an offence to use a hand held mobile phone whilst driving, with a $466 fine and four demerit points, and ask that people remember the potential risks caused by distracted drivers and pedestrians.