OPINION: Pokemon Go hooks Lismore - and it’s not a bad thing
WONDERING why there are so many people hanging around near Lismore City Hall and cedar log?
No, there's not some amazing show in the entertainment hall (well, there probably is actually - Sidenote: Round of applause for regional entertainment and NORPA - but that's not what this article is about) - it's because there is a major Pokemon battlefield that lies there.
Since the new app/game/lifestyle choice Pokemon Go dropped into the world a few days ago, each night when I've driven past City Hall I've seen an average of ten cars parked in Bounty Street, with people either sitting in their cars with their phone lights illuminating their faces of concentration, or people aimlessly standing in the street, making strange sudden movements.
Welcome to the world of Pokemon Go, Lismore.
Unless you've been living under a rock, over the last few days you would have heard a lot about this new phenomenon that has everyone from children to adults addicted.
So what is Pokemon Go?
Technically speaking, it's a location-based augmented reality mobile game which allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual Pokémon who appear throughout the real world.
It makes use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices to play the game.
Speaking basically, you walk around town, while your avatar of yourself walks on a map of your town on the screen of your phone.
If a Pokemon is near you, your phone will buzz and the little cartoon creature will show up near you on the map.
Click on it, and up comes your camera screen, showing the Pokemon 'in the real world around you'.
You then attempt to catch the Pokemon with the swipe of a finger and a Pokeball.
On paper, it may not sound appealing to you. But it has an overwhelming number of fans wanting to "be the best" - so many that the server crashed yesterday.
I admit, for the first 36 hours of everyone going mental over Pokemon Go, when my newsfeed first began to be clogged with Pokemon snapshots and memes, I resisted the call to arms.
My housemate came home with stories about walking three kilometres with her boyfriend (Both grown adults) in the one day to catch Pokemon, drop lures, and attempt battles.
I told my housemate that, while I'd been a huge Pokemon fan as a child, collecting Pokemon cards with my big brother, as well as a Pokedex and my beloved Squirtle figurine, I wasn't fussed about the release of Pokemon Go, and I that I didn't have the desire to download the app and become addicted to a another thing on my smartphone.
"Just download it," she told me.
Obviously easily swayed - don't ever put me near cake, my will power won't last long - I proceeded to download it.
By the next night I was texting my housemate to tell her I'd just caught a Bulbasaur and a Gastly in our kitchen while she wasn't home.
Yes, I too sighed, wondering how it got this far so quickly.
I even ventured out of my way while picking up groceries in Goonellabah yesterday to meander past the skatepark near GSAC - another Pokemon Go hotspot.
So it's safe to say: I, along with thousands, possibly millions, of others across the world, am addicted to Pokemon Go.
But you know what?
It's not a bad thing.
A reporter from our sister paper, the Sunshine Coast Daily, yesterday wrote that Pokemon Go was "The worst thing that happened to my generation."
I don't agree.
Yes, there may be 'more important things' to be concerned about in the world, but I've also seen a lot of positives coming from Pokemon Go.
In the last few days, I've seen people who would normally stay basking in their antisocial tendancies in their bedrooms getting out, meeting new people, bonding over a shared experience, and getting active all in order to play the game.
I saw a meme online (I know, I know - I never thought I would write that sentence to prove a point) that said "It took Michelle Obama eight years to convince people to run outside and be active. Pokemon Go did it in 24 hours."
I actually believe that's a perfect response to this phenomenon - people ARE getting outside and they ARE walking or running about in order to catch new Pokemon, stock up their store, or incubating eggs (you have to walk a certain distance for your eggs to hatch).
It's kind of genius.
Good on you, Pokemon Go, for getting people out of the house, getting active, making new friends (or possibly enemies, depending on how those Pokemon battles go down) and appreciating the towns they live in - if only for the number of Pokeballs they can accumulate at a local Pokestop (three, at the Goonellabah Post Office, if we're counting).
Pokemon Go allows you to explore your own town, finding things you may never have known were there.
Pokestops and Pokemon Gyms are mostly located at landmarks - such as Lismore City Hall and the Goonellabah Skatepark - or even smaller places, like on specific signage (near Goonellabah Woolworths), or a lookout (Claude Riley Memorial Lookout), which gives you the chance to discover your town.
However there have been those strange stories about random places being made Pokestops - like the Whanganui's Hells Angels headquarters.
You may see a whole heap of people walking around glued to their phones, but what I see is a new spark of enjoyment for life and more active lifestyle for many people - young and old.
Well done, Pokemon Go - you've got me sold.