What is the deal, anyway?
Having just started playing, I sheepishly managed to catch a few Pokemon inside the venue while waiting for the show to start. As soon as it began, I put my phone away—a practiced courtesy. Later, during an encore, I spotted a guy in front of me holding his phone high, presumably to get a photo of the band. Then I saw his screen: He was trying to capture a Zubat.
Hundreds of stories like these have surfaced in the past week: people roaming about in parks, on street corners, at somber memorials, and flouting the norms of social behavior in the name of catching fictional monsters. It’s easy to blame Pokemon Go’s augmented-reality interface—which has players explore the real world to collect critters and battle other teams—for encouraging people to stare silently at their phones while in the company of others, in public. But the nascent Pokemon Go craze is simply an extension of a challenge cultural venues have faced since the rise of cell phones.
Not knowing-or really caring-what a Zubat is, I can only assume that the wave of Pokemon mania is the current version of card collecting, that hobby which, in the long-ago dark ages before video games, was how most people found and collected fantasy characters:
Prior to the advent of the CCG, the market for alternative games was dominated by role-playing games (RPG), in particular Dungeons & Dragons by TSR. Wizards of the Coast (Wizards), a new company formed in Peter Adkison’s basement in 1990, was looking to enter the RPG market with its series called The Primal Order which converted characters to other RPG series. After a suit from Palladium Books which could have financially ruined the company, Wizards acquired another RPG called Talislanta. This was after Lisa Stevens joined the company in 1991 as vice president after having left White Wolf. Through their mutual friend Mike Davis, Adkison met Richard Garfield who at the time was a doctoral student. Garfield and Mike Davis had an idea for a game called RoboRally and pitched the idea to Wizards of the Coast in 1991, but Wizards did not have the resources to manufacture it and instead challenged Garfield to make a game that would pay for the creation of RoboRally. This game would require minimal resources to make and only about 15–20 minutes to play.
What hath they wrought? I’m sure they never imagined anything like this:
“We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.”-Charles Mackay