I’m wondering what it means to walk through a city, park or museum looking at the world through your phone screen and searching for little cartoon monsters. Does it mean that people will now get out of their houses to explore the world around them? Or will they walk through life blinded to the fascinating game being played right before their eyes?
When I walk down a street in New York City, I notice the endlessly changing scene. In the Times Square area I play a game of “who is this stranger?” I strain to hear the languages they’re speaking. What are they thinking as they travel through a city so familiar to me that when I was a child, I thought all cities looked exactly like New York? (They don’t.)
When I walked around the city with Japanese friends on their first trip here I wondered what they thought about the garbage piled at the curbs, the cracked sidewalks, the unending construction pits everywhere, the buildings being demolished and sidewalks rerouted through wooden passageways.
I pretended I was seeing the city for the first time, like they were. The mountains of skyscrapers, the leafy parks, the delicious aroma of honey roasted nuts, and the bouncing music of street musicians. And homeless people everywhere.
When I visited London for the first time, and fell completely in love with it, I was startled at how bright and sunny it is. That’s not because I expected it to be rainy. It’s because I had visited London in my mind for decades through all the books I read. The lighting is different from what I pictured in the mystery novels of Ruth Rendell, or my favorite Dickens stories, or in Dr. Who. London was real — with noise, and smells, and people everywhere.
If people are playing Pokemon Go, will they stop playing games like I do? My favorite is to sit in a cafe in New York and catch people’s eyes and smile. If they are natives of New York, I ask them their favorite site or restaurant. They love to tell me about their secret places and foods. If I speak to tourists, I have fun finding out where they’re from, what they’ve already seen, and where they plan to go.
Can you play these games with a Pokemon creature? The most thrilling part of traveling or walking through a city is connecting with strangers. Does Pokemon Go help you to connect with strangers? I’m hearing that it might. That would be a good thing. A new door to walk through.
My sister loves to taunt me with a game in the city. “Look around you in this restaurant,” she says. “Pretend the whole world has disappeared and the people we see are the only survivors. You must choose a mate from this group. Who do you pick?”
How can I choose someone by looks alone? I want to get up and interview everyone. “Are you artistic, musical, a scientist with fascinating knowledge?” I’d ask.
My sister and I speculate about the mystery lives of the people around us before we choose a partner. Or before she chooses a partner for me (she’s married).
I’m happy that Pokemon Go will get people out of their house. But will it make them miss the parade around them? Have you played this game yet?
Being in a vibrant city gives you ringside seats to the greatest show on earth. What is your favorite real life game?