Georgina Guedes

Pokemon Go is a sign of progress

2016-07-15 11:42

Georgina Guedes

A week ago, I had never even heard of Pokemon Go. Then, my friend Sarah – younger than me, gamer – asked if I’d tried it. I read up on what it was and how to get it in South Africa, thought the kids might enjoy it, but then didn’t quite get around to doing anything about it.

Within another 48 hours, every second story on my Facebook feed had something to do with Pokemon Go. There were explainers, hints and tips, and some media organisations howling about how unsafe it is. And of course, increasing numbers of my friends were downloading it themselves, or, you know “for” their “children”.

The inevitable Pokemon battle

It’s a phenomenon (or should I say “a phepokemon” – groan!). And like any other that descends upon us with the speed of lightning in the digital age, it will have its supporters and its detractors. Already, I have watched a Facebook fight break out on a friend’s timeline after she asked “WTF is Pokemon Go anyway?”

Some people explained, some people had a bit of a laugh, and some people dismissed it as stupidity. Then, one woman announced that it was just another “thing for people with no imaginations” that involves “staring at your phone a lot.”

Some people agreed, and some people really didn’t. I am from the camp that really didn’t. To be clear, I have yet to send it to my phone or play it, so I am not speaking from the position of one converted or addicted. But I am cognisant of the potential that such an application holds, and excited to have borne witness to the birth of such technology.

The benefits of both worlds

Like it or not, the digital world contained in our phones and spanning the globe is here to stay. If you resist and object to every new and compelling expression of this ubiquitousness, all you’re doing is getting yourself stucker in the mud than you already are. By all means, don’t participate if you don’t want to, but allow the people who are excited by this new world to enjoy it for what it is without judgement.

A couple of years ago, a photograph did the rounds on social media of a bunch of school children at the Rijksmuesum in Amsterdam staring at their phones instead of admiring the masterpiece before them (the Nightwatch, by  Rembrandt van Rijn). There was much online tsking and tutting and shaking of heads (by people who, I might point out, were on Facebook and Twitter) about the problem with the youth of today.

Eventually, it came out that a few minutes before, the entire class of students had been gazing at the artwork, and had then accessed the museum’s own app on their phones to learn more about it. So sucks to the tutters and the tskers. The app had enriched their experience of the art work. It spoke to them in a medium they were comfortable with, and gave them a depth of knowledge about the works that they were viewing. Ain’t technology great?

The world is a better place

Technology and connectivity are changing the world for the better. There are countless examples – from an app that lets African subsistence farmers check vegetable prices in the next village before wasting the petrol to get there to the live-streaming of police brutality, to the camera add-on that converts a smart phone into a skin cancer diagnostic tool.

And along the way, we’ll hopefully have some fun as well.

People worried that the radio would stop people talking or playing the piano, that the television would stop people listening to the radio, that the internet would stop people watching television, that newspapers would die, that people would only read online news, that social media would kill journalism and now, that Pokemon Go will get us all robbed or killed by a train. Guess what, most of us are still here, and some of us even still know how to play the piano?

Appreciate the view

Of course, it’s important to stop and smell the real-world flowers, get a bit of exercise and have an actual conversation with a friend – you know, using your voice – but with the advent of the internet and the proliferation of smart phones, our horizons have expanded to the edge of the Earth and beyond. Don’t get stuck wishing for things to stay the same or go back to how they were; appreciate the forces of change propelling us forward and the breathtaking views that we’ve just gained.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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