So this Pokemon thing hey.
Yes it’s weird I am blogging about Pokemon Go on a site I have mostly created to house content about conservation related experiences. But… here goes.
My first experience of Pokemon Go was on a Sunday evening. I was walking around the harbour in Wollongong and something caught my attention. But I didn’t know exactly what it was, only that it was actually more of an eerie vibe. I looked around. Everyone was on their phones. But more than usual. More immersed than usual. More disconnected from the world around them than usual. People had stopped walking mid-stride in some places. Other’s standing in the oddest places, like some weird zombie cult had taken over and then I realised “ahhhh it’s that Pokemon thing” and kept walking, shaking my head.
The more I thought about it, the more I was appalled at the onset of a generation of mindless zombies creeping around the neighbourhood in search of fictitious characters in the landscape. And yes I rolled my eyes at the prospect that this was a new wave of connection to the outdoors, I mean we’ve already seen negative press around people doing stupid things, putting their safety at risk along with a whole swag of other issues attached to the launch of the game. But for me it was mainly due to the fact that no one seems to be present when they actually are outside and to me that’s not connection. But maybe there’s something else in all this…
Hairy man cooked me dinner tonight and we headed out for a seaside picnic to Wollongong Harbour. Why? 1. Because he’s a legend and knows how hard I’ve been working lately, and 2. Because it’s unseasonably warm right now mid-winter in Australia, and we decided to capitalise on a still, summer-not-summer night.
Let me set the scene. Wollongong Harbour on a Tuesday night around 8 pm would typically be pretty empty. A few stray walkers and joggers, but that’s about it. A few hotted up Subaru’s with P-plates zipping around post Macca’s drive through, but nothing to brag about in terms of a hot spot for visitation.
But tonight was a whole new story. Pulling up to the harbour we were confronted by a sea of bodies congregating around the grassy foreshore ready for their hunt. It was mind boggling, in fact we struggled to find a car spot which is pretty ridiculous and I even had a whinge that I couldn’t find a spot because of Pokemon!
But as we sat eating away overlooking the glassy harbour, we started people watching. I secretly love people watching. At first we had a bit of a laugh about how many people were walking around glued to their phones, some of them the most unlikely suspects. Interestingly, it was small groups of young men looking for their catch who dominated the landscape. But they were from all walks of life. Some beefy and hard looking, others the skater-surfer kind, others your typical nerdy-looking type, and many from a whole diversity of ethnic backgrounds. There were families, young children and older couples too, all congregated together, sitting, chatting, and walking. Then I noticed people smiling at each other as they passed, people being totally polite, sharing tips on what to look for, where to find things, and just peacefully, well, having fun.
The vibe was great, and it reminded me of those times you travel to countries where the nights are buzzing and alive with people out and about, where it feels safe to be out exploring even after the sun goes down. And my whole perspective shifted on this Pokemon Go thing. Yes there was one random car that drove past, some dude just had to do it… “Pokemon sucks ya f#@!ing grubs” was spat out the car window as they screamed past. #Straya. But everyone just laughed and carried on with what they were doing.
I was like what? Wait. This is Wollongong, that kind of behaviour would usually encourage some aggressive retaliation. But nope. Shrug. Move on.
We walked around taking it all in, and the more I looked, the more I saw the social cohesion that was happening and couldn’t help but think, maybe this is what the world needs right now. And if it’s a virtual game that has started the ball rolling on bringing people out of their dens, utilising public spaces in a positive way, and connecting outside, then so be it. It’s not perfect, and who knows how long it will last, I mean, what’s a Tamagotchi? Yeah. Exactly. But perhaps it’s a start.
If I could fault anything I experienced tonight, it would be that lack of presence to the real stuff though. Even at night in the middle of suburbia incredible things can be seen. While everyone was immersed in the chase for their fictitious creatures, under the street lights, just below the surface of the lapping glassy high tide, I saw the largest sting-ray I have ever seen in my life come right up to the stair case where I was standing in the harbour. And for a few minutes it glided along beside me while I balanced along the edge. It was magic. I got a glimpse of an awesome creature, and it was real.
So while you’re out doing your thing, whatever it is that gets you outside, don’t forget to take in the real stuff too, because in my opinion, it’s waaaaaaay better, and it actually does exist. Nature, I will always choose you 😉