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Reality, virtual reality and my relaxing morning coffee at the waterfall

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I was in a state park recently, enjoying the waterfall in the morning before it got really hot. It was tranquil - for a while.

“I got one,” excitedly yelled a teenager near us, holding up his cellphone. His friends ran over to see. “Oh, man, you’re lucky,” she said as she looked at her own phone. “I wanted to catch that one.”

Are they nuts? I asked myself. What are they doing by these falls, waving their phones all over the place? One girl waded into the water and yelled, “I got it.”

Got what?

Then It dawned on me. A week or so earlier a new game app was released called Pokemon Go. They are playing a location-based reality game that uses the phone’s GPS function to put players at the scene as they chase these Pokemons.

I may not be totally accurate in my description of this app. I have no intentions of downloading it or understanding exactly how it works, who wins, or what there is to win.

But I do know that it has spread like wildfire.

The teens at the falls seemed to enjoy themselves. They ran around getting some good exercise. It it were not for this game, they may have been inside and inactive, playing some killing game, or watching TV.

I’m all for it. I don’t care what game it is, as long as the kids go outside and play. We used to do that all the time. We played “capture the flag,” which is probably the great granddaddy of Pokemon Go.

Another one was “color war,” also called “green and gray.” This game was popular in the summer camp I attended as a kid. The camp was divided into two sides, one gray and one green, and we competed in various events for a few days.

The winning team got its banner displayed in the dining hall. That was a lot of fun. Back in those days, we didn’t have cellphones, and the GPS had yet to be invented. But there is nothing wrong with outdoor activity using technology. The activity is important, not the method.

The teens around us were catching all kinds of things. Apparently, there are a lot more opportunities around water. I’m just guessing.

The first video game I played back-in-the-day had a little ball that bounced across a black and white TV screen. The goal, like ping pong, was to hit it back to the other side. I missed the ball a lot on “Pong,” even on the lower settings. I am not a videogame person.

Then Pac Man came along, gobbling up all those dots. I did more folding than gobbling. This was a popular game in video arcades and bars. We played it for a quarter. It was followed by Ms. Pac Man. That concludes my video game experience.

If I were to start playing videogames, I would give this Pokemon Go a go. I actually researched it briefly, and one of the links I even stumbled on some cheat codes.

Why would you want to cheat in a game that requires that you run around and collect Pokemon? That defeats the purpose of the game - to get you outside and get the heart and lungs working. If you’re going to cheat at this game, just stay in air-conditioning and kill monsters.

“Help,” I heard as I sat in the park by the falls. A muscular man was yelling. He was in the water. At first I thought he needed help catching his stash of Pokemon, but then realized that he was in danger of drowning after he yelled, “This is real.”

Mr. Muscle had gone into the water and stepped off into a deep spot. This was not virtual reality. He was splashing his hands up and down, but could not keep above the water.

“There has to be an app for that,” I told my wife. I couldn’t resist inserting that line. I was too far from him. There were other people closer, like his pregnant wife, who managed to pull him back to shore.

He was fine, except for a bruised ego. Between building up his muscles, maybe he could get a few swimming lessons in. There has to be an app for that also, although when I learned to swim as a kid in camp, the instructor was a person.

With all that drowning drama over, and the teens still preoccupied with chasing Pokemon, serenity returned to the falls, and I continued to drink my coffee and enjoy nature, which was beautiful.

No app needed.