While to some the internet may seem to be nascent, an entire generation has grown up with digital technology and the world wide web. To us millennials, the early days of videogames and the internet are nostalgic. This has never been more clear than in the tremendous success of Pokemon Go. In just one week, Pokemon Go has already become the largest mobile game in US history. Within three days of its release it had already surpassed Twitter and Tinder in active users and soared to the top of App Store revenue charts. In the era of endless social media and apps producing insane numbers of followers, downloads, and retweets these figures are still staggering. What explains this unprecedented craze?
Pokémon go comes at a time ripe for its introduction. It comes at a time of heightened political divisiveness, a decade of international conflict, social divide and class divide. Yet despite all this, a USA Today/Rock the Vote nationwide poll on millennials earlier this year showed that our generation is more united than our elders. We have come to a generational consensus on making the switch to renewable energy, requiring police to wear body cameras, and accepting refugees from war torn countries like Syria. Equality and climate change are the issues that matter most to us. Yet, unsurprisingly, we are not firmly aligned with any party. We often ask each other where is the socially liberal, fiscally conservative candidate? Why do we have to choose between responsible spending and gay marriage rights? Why are we still even talking about gay marriage? That millennials overwhelmingly voted for Bernie Sanders is not surprising. We have been trapped in conflicts that aren’t ours, under politicians whom we don’t identify with and who can’t identify with us. And it’s at this social, cultural, and political stage that Pokemon Go’s release has captivated the hearts and minds of the millennial generation who can no longer support the status quo.
Pokemon Go takes us back to a time of innocence - a pre- 9/11 world before we knew there were people who hated us and before we had to ask ourselves the fundamental question, why? Pokemon Go transcends race, gender, and class, ideals that this election has already demonstrated matter to us.
Pokemon Go is at the least a distraction from “petty politics,” and, at most, a rebellion. A counter culture that doesn’t subscribe to the divisive politics of our time. For the first time in over decade and a half I found myself in a park, running around like a child, catching pokemon and making new friends. For that hour my parent’s voices reminding me of the dangerous world we live in disappeared. I forgot I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, or hang out in public places after dark. In that moment, I could feel that I was a part of something special. It was the first time in my adult life that I felt a true sense of community. I felt connected to my neighbors and my neighborhood. Our generation has Facebook friends on every continent, yet we have never met our nextdoor neighbours.
The social and political foundations for Pokemon Go have never been more suitable. Just like older generations, younger generations too are nostalgic for the “good old days”, even if our golden age was only twenty years ago. We want to be heard by those making the decisions that will ultimately affect us, not them. And if they won’t listen, we will just keep playing.