September 2016

Line in the Sand: What is Pokemon GO?

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Gather round the emerald glow of Old Man Kaufman’s vintage 1989 Game Boy, kiddies, and let me tell you a story about the old days. You see, back in my day we didn’t have your Pokémons and your Zippyflorps and your Voopdoopers. Heck, we didn’t even have video games you could take outside. Why I weren’t knee-high to a grasshopper when I first picked up a Nintendo controller and spent an entire summer indoors, as God intended, making a pixelated plumber kill turtles for three months straight. Wound up with a severe vitamin D deficiency, but at least I saved the princess more times than Ronny Gardner down the street.

We didn’t have your fancy phone games, either, with your gyms and your Pokéstops—our phones had cords, and a giant wheel on the front that would make dialing long-distance an all-day affair. The only game you could play on the phone back then was dialin’ up strangers and making farting noises into the receiver until they hung up. Whoever could go the longest without getting hung up on won. We called it Fart Phone. Now that was a game!

When we finally did get games you could take outside, they ran on batteries—giant non-rechargeable D cells that would give you a solid six minutes of video game time before they leaked acid all over the place. And even then, you could only play Tetris or Super Mario Bros., which didn’t matter since you couldn’t see the screen if the sun was out. We could have been playing Pong for all we knew. So back inside we’d go, to wash the battery acid out of our Z. Cavariccis.

But you kids now, with your augmented reality and your Pokéballs, actually leaving the house to play your games. Exploring the world and discovering things about your own neighborhood that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Meeting up with fellow players on your teams and socializing. Since when did anyone ever want to go outside and explore the actual world while playing video games? I couldn’t tell you the first thing about the town I grew up in, but I could tell you where every single hidden passage was in Legend of Zelda. Now I can’t see any reason I’d ever go back to Michigan, but I can certainly see myself visiting Hyrule from time to time. So I think we can all agree that was time well-spent.

And socializing. Pfft. Okay, whippersnappers. You go ahead and have your teams and your gyms and get out there and meet new people or whatever. Back in my day, if you wanted socializing, you’d plug in the second controller, call up Ronny and spend the afternoon getting killed over and over again in Battletoads and teaching each other new swear words. That was socialization! I still remember the glorious day the N64 gave us four controller ports, so we could get two more people involved and start fights over who was cheating in Goldeneye. We learned our socialization through fisticuffs and days spent without seeing the sun, and we liked it!

It’s gotten so bad, I can’t even go to the public park these days without seeing all these kids running around, breathing fresh air, talking to each other with their actual mouths and not their thumbs. You know what a public park was for back in my day? Well, come to think of it, I probably shouldn’t tell you that until you’re older. Suffice it to say it was no place for kids. Now all these public places are full of them.

And now I heard players in Muncie, Indiana are volunteering at the local animal shelter, walking the dogs just so they can get their steps in and hatch their Pokémon eggs. Oh sure, let’s get gamers to help out dogs. It’s like these kids never even played Duck Hunt. They may have forgotten how dogs laugh at you when you fail to shoot a duck, but I sure haven’t!

Look, you kids may think going outside, making friends and volunteering in your community is a great way to spend your childhood, but that’s just not the way I was raised. I guess things were different then. If this world doesn’t want little kids spending their youth inside staring at a TV anymore, not doing a lick to explore or build their community, I don’t know that there’s a place in it for an old gamer like myself.

Now go fetch Old Man Kaufman his Sega Genesis and stay the hell off my lawn—I don’t care how many rare Zippyflorps keep spawning there. 


I don’t know what Pokémon Go is. I’m not embarrassed by this fact. I’ve read the headlines, “Arizona Couple Abandons Toddler to Play ‘Pokémon Go,’” and something along the lines of “Man Walks 96 Miles and Loses 15 Pounds Playing Pokémon Go…” Unfortunately, (or fortunately), those headlines represented the depth of my understanding of this phenomenon when Barry presented the question for this month.

To be able to argue this topic, some research was going to be required. Instead of diving into the research, I chose my more favored route and procrastinated big time. I watched the days slip by, and each evening I thought tomorrow—tomorrow I will figure out what this Pokémon thing is all about. I never did. I briefly called upon my limited Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, and Pac-Man memories in the hopes that I would be reminded of hours of delight spent in front of a screen. Alas, I had zero aha moments.

In my public communication course, I tell my students to never a pick a topic they don’t feel passionate about, because if they don’t have passion, it will be near impossible to bring their audience along for the ride. As such, I let this topic continue to hang out there as I had zero zest for the argument.

I typically get my big ideas while driving. So, when getting into my car this morning, I was channeling my inner video game voice, and wouldn’t you know it: big idea! You see, for the first time in 30 days, I didn’t ignore the parking ticket in my console. Instead, I actually opened the envelope. Turns out today is my court date for said ticket. Of course, I am guilty, so no reason to fight this battle. But it did remind me of another battle for which I could be commandant.

I couldn’t care less about Pokémon, and I apologize now to Barry who I am certain penned a magnificent argument in favor of all of the benefits of Pokémon Go. Bravo Barry. But lest I go down the path that I warn my students from each semester, I have decided to argue for something I care about: this month-old parking ticket.

Earlier this summer, I wrote of my love for the beach. It is where I find solace and strength. Where I relax and rejuvenate. Where I sit and share stories with my sister, where I watch my nieces turn cartwheels and ride the waves, and where I love to go with a pizza and a couple beers to watch the sun set and the moon rise.

I would venture to say that I go to the beach 50 times a year. I typically stay for three to four hours, which means I feed about $175 into meters annually. And I am fine with that. I grew up at the Jersey Shore, where you bought your beach badge for the summer and always had quarters in your car for parking. So, imagine my surprise when last month I pulled into the lot at Islanders Beach, and all of the meters were covered, essentially prohibiting non-Hilton Head Island residents from parking there. I later learned that the lot was short spots because of the beach re-nourishment project. Don’t get me started on that. Who re-nourishes the beach in the height of tourist season? I presume January, February and March were taken? So, I risked it and parked there anyway. I wasn’t surprised by the ticket.

Yeah, yeah, I know the name suggests that this beach (and lot) is for “islanders” only, but it got me thinking. Bluffton doesn’t charge Hilton Head Island residents (or any other non-Bluffton) residents to park in our parking spaces. (And lord knows, with parking at a premium in Old Town, we could make a fortune.) So, this is my plea to Mayor Sulka to give Mayor Bennett a nudge and propose a Hilton Head Island Beach parking pass that can be purchased by Bluffton residents. We’d gladly pay it. And we will continue not charging people from anywhere to park in Bluffton. We’re cool like that. 

Let Us Know what You Think ...

commenting closed for this article