WordPress Daily Prompt — Creature
This is a true story about finding a new community and about re-connecting with loved ones. It is also yet another story about me growing wiser, as well as, coincidentally, a story about hunting virtual creatures.
Although I love my children more than anything else in this world, there was a time as they were growing up, when I found it difficult to engage with them on their level. As parents, we sometimes think our children’s interests are a little, well, juvenile and beneath us. Often times, it simply reflects that we are so tired, and don’t have the energy to invest in their interests. I now know this was a missed opportunity. In 2016, I took up Pokémon Go and found a way to bond with my children through their love of the game. Shock, horror! Now, I’ve outted myself.
Pokémon Go is an online game that involves using the GPS system on a mobile/cell phone to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures. One element of the game involves walking a certain distance to hatch or evolve a Pokémon. Subsequent updates of the game introduced features that encouraged teamwork between players. In response, a rash of online groups were established to assist players to team up. The game was initially released to much fanfare in the media. Okay, so it has had its detractors, with reports that players have got themselves into some fairly awkward situations — like getting hit by cars as they’ve crossed roads, or going into some pretty shady areas (eg. club houses of bikie gangs) to spin Pokéstops. Some of this criticism is reasonable, but I’m sure that this type of criticism could be leveled equally, and more generally, at other distracted phone users.
My boys, who had grown up playing a variety of Pokémon games, were tremendously excited at the prospect of playing the online game when it was announced. As it happened, my youngest didn’t have a phone at the time, so I downloaded the game onto my phone for him to play. I think many parents start playing as way of helping their children earn experience points. What they then find is that they actually enjoy the game themselves.
I’ve met young and old players from every walk of life: older couples going out together to play, including one lady using a walking frame; mothers, fathers and their children participating in special events; university students; tradesmen; and professional people, to name a few. When you overhear a young twenty-something man tell someone why he loves a particular cute Pokémon, it really is the sweetest thing. When the same young man organises all the raiders into teams so they can maximise their chance of taking down a Pokémon, it is not hard to see a fine young leader in the making. I remember one conversation my son and I had with a mum about how the game teaches children that they can’t have everything in life. Sometimes a Pokémon flees despite your best efforts, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. That mother also explained how the game had taught her child that persistence and hard work eventually pays off. That seemed a fine take-home message to me; more than that, it seemed a very practical way for parents to guide children in how to deal with life’s frustrations.
I know my husband was concerned about the amount of time our adult-son spent going out in the evening with new friends to catch Pokémon, instead of studying. My own view was that there were worse things he could be doing. It did seem to help relieve some of his uni stress and keep him smiling. When my son and I were suffering from the winter blues, we would go out together for a walk around some parks and nature reserves to hunt Pokémon, and we would feel better for it. We would also take our friend’s children raiding. They were always thrilled, and we were thrilled for them. It warmed the cockles of the heart.
I still have some way to go to get to the top level of the game. Even if my interest should wain in the future, I will always have fond memories of how my boys and I bonded over our secret love. It has been a special time, a shared experience unlike any other we’ve had before. We laugh, commiserate and celebrate together. I’ll cherish that for a long time to come.