Aug. 1 2016 02:06 PM

10 easy steps to help you master the shame, embarrassment and ultimate acceptance of trying to catch them all

    Who wore it better?
    Top photo by Shelby Wentz, bottom photo by Ryan Bradford

    1. Download the game the day it comes out. Tell yourself that you're just going to try it for a month as an experiment. You don't know anything about Pokémon except maybe the vague notion of a "Pikachu." You don't even really play video games. Honestly, most zeitgeisty stuff is kind of bullshit, but with Pokémon, it's different. You're getting in at the ground level; you're an OG. Imagine all the kids you'll be able to impress in your theoretical scenarios where you're hanging out with cool teens.

    2. You find your first Pokémon: a Squirtle. It's hanging in the hall of your office building. It's a vaguely frightening experience, this "augmented reality," and you briefly check outside your screen to make sure the Squirtle is not really there. After catching the Squirtle, you return to your co-workers and proudly proclaim, "I just caught a Squirtle." Thus begins the normalization of sounding like an idiot.

    3. Leave work. It's the start of the weekend and you're excited about that but also stoked to try out your new game. You walk around North Park, looking at your familiar neighborhood with new eyes. There are Pokéstops everywhere! You walk past a burly, bearded punk-type with a phone in his hand. You're both trying to play it cool, but he sees your screen and says, "You're playing the game." "Yeah," you say. He says: "It's pretty ridiculous, huh?" You agree. The two of you stand in silence for a little bit. Then, he says: "There are a lot behind the library," and you say, "Thanks!"

    4. Text your friend in Salt Lake City to see if Pokémon's as big of a deal over there. He says, "Yes," and also: "Have you found the dignity Pokémon yet?" Ignore him.

    5. Notice the gradual increase of people walking along the road at night by themselves, guided by blue light emanating from their hands. It's not an aimless walk, per se, but their goals are ultimately insatiable. You get the eerie feeling you're witnessing some sort of zombie apocalypse: bodies never fulfilled and moved by instinct instead of logic.

    6. When your co-worker tells you about the Pikachu he found in his backyard over the weekend, pretend you're not bubbling with white-hot jealousy.

    7. Go to a punk show with a friend who you haven't seen recently due to the fact that he's recently bought a house and got promoted—two undeniably grown-up milestones. While he talks about the new stresses of adulthood, you ache to pull out your phone to see if there are any Pokémon in the bar. You're there until the bar closes, and when it's time to leave, you two part in separate directions. As you walk toward the darkened parking lot, you see two bros hanging out. This late at night, anyone is a threat, so you pull up Pokémon to avoid talking to them. "I'll give you $100 to drive us to my house," one of them says, slurring his words. Keep walking. A Rhyhorn pops up on your screen. "Or," the guy continues, louder, "How about you suck my dick?" Keep walking. Keep looking down. Don't stop to catch the Rhyhorn.

    8. Decide last minute to make a Zubat costume for Comic-Con. Create it using a spray painted basketball and art supplies meant for elementary kids. Your wife finds you sticky with Elemer's glue and purple fabric, and asks what you're doing (you're 31 years old by the way). Try not to sound too frustrated or on-the-verge-of-tears when you say, "CAN'T YOU TELL? I'M MAKING A ZUBAT!" She retreats to her computer to look up "Zubat." Listen to her say, "Cute!"

    9. Within a minute of entering Comic-Con, a Wonder Woman rushes up to take your picture. She shows you all the Pokémon she's caught at the Con. "I'm from Oregon and we don't have any of these Pokémon up there." She scrolls her Pokédex in front of you and your awe at her bounty is genuine. "Fucking caught all of those within the last 20 minutes," she says. You spend the rest of Comic-Con standing off to the side, playing the game. People walk by and swipe imaginary Pokéballs at you and your anguished reaction delights them. You're a star—a bright and shining Pokéstar.

    10. Attend the late-night Pokémon meet-up at Balboa Park. The crowd is insane—it's like being at the park on a busy day, but at night, and everyoneis playing Pokémon. You find a Pikachu, and you realize that it's as emotionally/spiritually/physically fulfilling as you could've hoped. Across the bridge, in Balboa Park's unlit cactus garden, countless blue screens flutter against a dark landscape like digital fireflies. Someone yells "DRAGONITE!" and it's akin to yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded movie theater. You overhear someone tell his friend, "Turn your phone off so you'll have enough battery if the Dragonite comes back." Some joker close by sets off a firecracker, its boom is deafening. The firework lights up the cactus garden briefly and, despite the terrorist attacks that happen on a weekly basis, nobody seems to care. They're all looking at their phones. But so are you. You wonder if the best Pokémon was right here all along: in this darkened cactus garden, in this community, within us all.

    No. Just kidding, the best Pokémon is Pikachu, and you caught him.

    You set out to play Pokémon for one month, but one more won't hurt.


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