A local science fiction author sees the future in a Pokémon hunt
Nine hours in the sun and the heat. I don’t know how many miles. Having a complete blast.
Coolidge Park. Named after one of our local Medal of Honor recipients. A fairly new park in most terms. It was built in the nineties. Down on the river. It’s a really nice area; walking bridge across the Tennessee River, old time merry-go-round built from original equipment, great little shopping area on the North Shore. Fountains. Across the river is the Hunter Museum and the Arts District featured in one of my books.
It is one of the nicest areas in Chattanooga. My wife and I used to go there frequently. The last few years, not so much. Not so much.
The last few years I have literally spent up to three months never leaving the house. Not once. Not to so much as to get the mail. Our car’s battery died before a recent convention and we didn’t know since we hadn’t used our car in weeks.
I am known as a very prolific writer. I suffer from equally prolific depression. Depression is so common in authors it’s more or less a requirement to join the ranks. And, no, I can’t take anything for it because it’s part and parcel. Anything that “helps” with the depression poisons the muse. I can cope, sometimes barely, or ask “Do you want fries with that?”
There are many reasons one of my editors (also a friend) comes over once a week, but part of it is that at one point my publisher hadn’t heard from me for two months and there was a deadline. I’m a friend and one of her prime income generators. She wants to make sure I’m still alive. When I’m bad, the phone never gets answered, nor emails, nor…anything. I live in another world, a better one, where I’m not having to cope with…Life.
Until Pokémon Go.
The last couple of weeks have been revolutionary. I’ve had various heart “issues” for the last few years. Mostly arrhythmia. It’s not actually a “treatable” arrhythmia, it’s a lifestyle thing.
I’ve been feeling physically so weak and my lungs have been so bad sometimes I have to stop and catch my breath after a flight of stairs. This from a former paratrooper who used to run four miles before breakfast. It’s a combination of smoking, lung scarring from childhood pneumonia and that Chattanooga has one of the highest pollen counts in the world. Literally. The only place worse is a rain forest in Southern China. That problem? Gone. I’m breathing better than I’ve breathed in years. I feel twenty years younger. I take hills like a mountain goat.
Depression? What depression. I just had the time of my life.
I spent nine hours walking more than I’ve walked since I was posted to Multi-National Forces in Sinai. Days when an 18k patrol followed by a hump up a 3,000-foot-high mountain carrying a hundred pounds of gear and ammo was a fun game. Days I missed. I chatted with a young guy who’s joining the Marines, spent quite some time hanging out with a young couple who were starting their own construction company, chatted with young (including four-year-old types and up) and old (guy older than me who was interested in the game as a way to get more exercise), rich and poor, white and black and every other color of the rainbow.
All of us hunting the elusive, imaginary, Pokémon.
Pokémon is the ultimate leveler.
The fact that I got loudly frustrated in front of about a hundred people, all of whom commiserated, when I lost an 1168 Tentacruel despite a half a dozen Razberries and five Ultraballs is a form of public insanity with which I can live. Because every single person present understood the horror of losing an 1168 Tentacruel.
And there were, literally, a hundred people gathered in one place playing and interacting and socializing about a video game. In a park. At night. Voices in the darkness laughing and having a good time with most of them being total strangers until…they all had to go hunt imaginary creatures.
The last time there was this sort of public appreciation of oneness was shortly after 9/11. It feels like the days after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. As if mankind is waking up from history and anger.
All the Nobama/Dumpf/Hitlery, BLM, NBPP, OccupyThis, Don’tComply that, has been driving us apart.
A video game is bringing us together. Hunting something that exists only as electrons and pictures on a screen.
I’m exhausted. I hurt. I’m drinking red wine from the neck of a bottle and popping over-the-counter pain killers. I just had the best day I’ve had since going fishing in the Keys with my daughters. I want to do it again. Now. This instant. I have to let my old body heal.
Millions of people are out there having a blast, mobbing parks and restaurants and businesses, sharing, communicating, every race, every economic level, leveled. The only color that matters being if you are red or blue or yellow. There is no race, no gender, no “other” when you need to take down the hated enemy gym! Just the cry, “Mystic shall fall!” Do you turn away a powerful Snorflax because the wielder is a different race, or looks a bit [insert other]? Hell, no! Politics, race, genderism are nothing compared to Beating Mystic Like a Stump!
(It should be noted for those of Mystic offended, my beloved daughters are navel gazing traitors to the cause of Valor.)
This amazing social experience brought to you by a video game. Played on a phone. Using...some sort of unobtainium technology.
Atari took us inside to sit on a couch or the floor and at most communicate with a few people online often using profanity.
Pokémon Go takes us back out the door and into the air and the sun and the wild, communicating with hundreds in actual face-to-face conversation. And we find that strangers are actually…good. That we not need fear “the other”. As long as they have a cellphone in hand and are tapping at the screen you have found a new friend.
The best science fiction is that which explores how technology changes society.
Our society is being changed, again, by a video game. This moment is science fiction. It is better science fiction, more hopeful, more positive, than I ever envisioned being possible.
We can be cured of our hate. We can be one in the darkness or the light. We can be well. As a society and as individuals.
Go catch the imaginary.
(Psst: And when you choose a team, pick the red one! Valor Shall Triumph!)
John Ringo is a New York Times bestselling science fiction author. He has written or co-written over 40 novels, including the best-selling "Empire of Man", "Legacy of the Aldenata", "Troy Rising" and "Black Tide" series. He lives in Chattanooga with his wife and an ever-changing number of feline cohabitants.