While sitting on the front porch one evening this week, we saw a cluster of teenage boys on the sidewalk in front of our house. They stayed awhile, looking at their phones, chatted a bit, looked up at our house, chatted some more and walked away.
“If they were 10 years older, and half of them women, I would think they were looking at our house,” I said. “Like they wanted to buy it.”
Just then, a car drove up and paused at the same spot. As it rolled away, another group of teenagers, all boys, arrived to have a look.
What was going on?
Now, I write about this house and its ongoing facelift project probably too often in this column. But the house itself is not all that interesting to anyone but those of us who live here. What was this sudden fascination with it?
“There’s a Pokemon gym in the yard,” said the farmer’s son. He, being young and hooked into the cyber world, recognized this new phenomenon instantly. We are the proud owners of a Pokemon gym.
Whatever that is.
This is part of the new “Pokemon Go” game, a smartphone app that allows the players to chase the virtual characters all over the globe. In one week, so many people downloaded and began playing the game that the maker, Nintendo, added an estimated $11 billion to its worth.
Apparently, the game places Pokemon characters at coordinates all over the map. Using their phones, the Pokemon chasers follow signals and signs to locate the little creatures and clobber them with a red ball. This explains the roving groups of kids walking, zombie-like with heads down, through neighborhoods. It also explains, sadly, why I’ve seen more than the usual number of drivers with the phones in their hands, which has to be some diabolically more treacherous version of distracted driving.
My daughter has the app, but lost interest after a few hours. When I explained we have a Pokemon gym in our yard, she was quick to clarify that.
“Dude,” she said, “your whole house is a Pokemon gym.”
This is, apparently, common knowledge in the neighborhood.
Does this mean we’ll have throngs of players ringing the doorbell, ready to come into the house to do battle? It hasn’t happened yet.
Watching the groups of kids coming and going, I felt a twinge of regret I didn’t think of the game myself. Eleven billion is a nice amount of dollars. But maybe I could still cash in a bit, by putting a Pokemon food dispenser on the sidewalk out front. For a quarter, you get a handful of morsels, just like at the petting zoo.
Do Pokemon even eat? I should know such a thing. After all, I have a whole gym full of them.
Beth Dolinar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.