Fun from Pokemon Go to whoa

By Kerry Hebberley

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IN THE 1990s, somewhere between The Teletubbies and Beyblades/Harry Potter, my home became filled with Pokeballs, Pokemon figures, puzzles, soft toys, pillows and duvet sets, PlayStation games and telly programmes, stickers, pencil cases and backpacks.

It was an invasion and, while I thought the Pikachu soft toy on the bookshelf was cute, I was never a huge fan of the franchise - mainly because it cost a lot of money (thank goodness for generous family members) but also because I just couldn't get excited about annoying anime, especially at the end of a long working day.

When I recently heard Pokemon had been revived in the form of an interactive game played via mobile phones, I cringed. Then I grinned, because my children are now all adults and I no longer have to think about filling their Christmas stockings with passing fads.

For the next few days, I cringed again as I learnt of two American men who, while playing Pokemon Go, had walked off the edge of a cliff. Apparently they're okay.

One church posted online that players were welcome to come inside and look for Pokemon. That sounds like a wonderful recruitment drive.

Then a teen female stepped off a kerb and straight onto a busy highway, only to be hit by a car (blaming the game, instead of a lack of common sense) - and some players had been mugged as they walked the streets late at night, phones in front of their faces, capturing Pokemon and drawing the attention of those seeking free phones.

It was not for me, I decided.

Then I discovered there were Pokemon in my workplace, in the carpark, uptown and downtown - in parks, libraries, cinemas - even in my own home.

A lot of adults were playing it, claiming the game forced them to exercise, and parents were taking their children out and about on Pokemon hunts during the school holidays. They said it was better than watching telly and a welcome change from the "I'm bored" chorus at home.

I read about a young chap who quit his job in order to travel the length and breadth of New Zealand for the next year, playing the game.

I toyed with the idea of asking my editor for a year off but that might not have gone down too well with him or my colleagues.

Then I saw an anti-Pokemon meme on Facebook, from an Australian bloke proclaiming in capital letters that he would not be downloading Pokemon Go because he was "an adult, not a 10-year-old" - and an old quote came to mind.

"What's the point of being grown-up if you can't be childish sometimes?"

Those famous words, from my beloved Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker, Doctor Who) decades ago, have been my mantra since my early 40s. Now in my mid-50s, the body may be giving in to gravity but the mind is still delightfully immature at times.

So I downloaded the game - just to see what all the fuss was about. I created my avatar (she's young, slim, fashionable and gorgeous, of course), named her and, during a break at work, started to play.

Unable to get the app to start, I almost gave up there and then, until I realised my phone's location had to be on, in order to activate the GPS system the game requires. Off I went and, within two minutes, had caught three Pokemon.

After some practice runs close to home, on Sunday I drove into town in Napier and set off on foot down Marine Parade, starting at the Spirit of Napier and ending up at the Seafarers Centre opposite Coote Rd - quite a hike for me.

Who would have thought the National Aquarium of New Zealand was a Pokemon gym, where battles for supremacy take place? I was impressed and eventually I won my first and only battle there.

Striding confidently north, I discovered Pokemon lurking everywhere. I found Pok Stops and put down lures.

I was tempted to go a little way up Coote Rd to see how many of the virtual critters were hiding in the Centennial Gardens but the wind was cold, the light was beginning to fade and the game had frozen twice. I switched it off.

I strolled back to the car feeling pleased with myself. I had avoided accidents and, as the game advises on start-up each time, I stayed alert in my surroundings (which is difficult, as the nature of the game requires eyes on screen.

It is easy to spot other Pokemon Go players. Driving home, I saw a large group of them coming out of the cinema complex, eyes on screens - but they stopped and looked both ways before crossing the road. The common sense I mentioned earlier was alive and well within this group.

I saw a mum and dad with their children, rugged up against the biting wind and out for a walk in Marewa, all four of them looking for Pokemon.

I know there are a couple of Pokemon hiding in Civic Square near my workplace because I saw a couple of teens heading confidently toward their virtual targets late last Friday night. So, will I venture over there on a Pokemon hunt?

In New York's Central Park at the weekend there was mayhem as hundreds of game players pulled up in cars and leapt out, seeking a rare Pokemon said to be hiding there. I don't like mayhem. I like peace and quiet.

So, no. Kudos to those determined to "catch 'em all" but for me, a couple of days were enough. I was anxious to return to my adult colouring book, determined to stay within the lines. I succeeded. Yay!

Bless my inner child.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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