Don’t kid yourself. Pokémon Go is the perfect embodiment of millennials’ anxieties
I have a confession. It’s something I haven’t told my friends, and it’s something I never thought I’d be ashamed to admit at 26, but here it is: I’m sorry, but I’m not playing Pokémon Go.
The game – which mashes together noughties primary school craze Pokémon with Google Maps – launched in the UK a fortnight ago. It allows users to hunt and catch Pokémon characters, running around in real life to find critters in a parallel virtual world. They can then take a photo of the character superimposed on to the view from their phone’s camera. #Selfie. It’s so addictive that two men fell off a cliff while focusing on their Poké-hunt and another dude’s quit his job to dedicate his entire life to catching ’em all.
Everyone’s doing it. People who sneered that the Cereal Café showed that London had reached peak hipster infantilisation have been dashing round London Fields filling their phones with non-existent cartoon characters from 20 years ago. The British Museum’s tweeting pictures of Pokémon in its galleries, more than 14,000 Londoners said they were interested in attending a Pokémon lure party in Trafalgar Square and you can get off your face on Pikachu-shaped ecstasy tablets. ‘Pokémon’ was more googled than ‘porn’ last week and the app has been downloaded more times than Tinder. Pokémon Go has taken millennials’ appetite for nostalgia, fantasy and selfies and turned it into a real-life movement. A movement I want to be part of, but can’t bring myself to join.
I can see why Pokémon Go’s so appealing. The virtual world is the safe space my generation retreat to when we feel alone or out of control. When we’re playing the game we aren’t just ‘fucked young people’, we’re a united force of Pokémon trainers. People in the street are no longer untrustworthy strangers, they’re other players. Plus, it’s a universal topic of conversation to replace weeks of bleak Brexit chat.
It’s weird because normally I’m totally into this kind of thing. I’m obsessed by pop culture trends: I cry at Beyoncé gigs; I can quote ‘Mean Girls’ word-for-word; I still get a buzz off Instagram likes. I also have huge nostalgia for Ash and Misty. When I was a kid I aced Pokémon Yellow, and once wore a Squirtle costume to a fancy-dress party. So why isn’t it doing it for me? I suppose because it just feels like a waste of time.
I’ve already spent one whole summer of my life obsessed with an app that connected me with people, gave me a false sense of gratification and ultimately filled dead time: Tinder. That was bad enough, but at least I could get a date on it without fighting my way through tourist traps to find a Mr Mime.
Millennials, I know I’m letting you down by admitting this and it feels like I’m telling the world I’m basically no fun whatsoever but I think Pokémon’s Go is just a bit stupid. What can I say? I don’t need to play a game to have a reason to get out and about: London’s got millions.
When I walk through the city, I’m too distracted by architecture, parks, people and dogs – okay, mainly dogs – to be glued to my phone looking for Psyducks. Caught up in London, the only place I ever remember to play Pokémon Go is at home, so I’m not very good at it. And I hate things I’m not good at.
Bored of Pokémon Go? This is why you should play Dungeons & Dragons instead