The latest craze, fad, and craziness that has burst upon the pop culture scene is Pokémon Go, brought to us by, once again, Nintendo. I thought this company was dead! Well, at least in my mind it was. I had buried it years ago. It may still have been around in some form or other, producing insipid and inane games under some sort of pseudonym(s), but I wouldn’t know. Since the 1980s and early ’90s when “Nintendo” and “Game Boy” were ubiquitous amongst my young sons’ friends’ pastime activities, it was banned from our household. I just never listened for its existence anymore after that. I ignored it.
Now 25 years later, it has come back to haunt me. Could it be payback time for my past action and attitude? Or maybe it’s a revolving door that has come back to target my sons, now parents themselves, for them to deal with for their children, and possibly follow my example? A case of what goes around, comes around?
Indeed, in 1990 we disembarked from 10 years of living and traveling the world on a sailboat. We were aware of Nintendo. We knew it was out there in another reality. We could see it coming—the hypnotic pull of video games on our boys. Yep, we were back in civilization, and now about to be affronted by it. That summer of 1990, as we established ourselves on land, we made a point of sitting our two boys down before the start of the school year and forewarned them: There would be no TV, no Nintendo! We would not let our 8 and 11 year-olds be taken in by this hypnotic force.
One of the challenges that confronted us upon reacquainting ourselves with life on land was trying to keep a good balance between the simpler and wholesome life we led on the sea for our boys, and the new plugged-in home computer version that was just beginning to blossom in 1990. Nintendo was omnipresent at the time. We knew this would present a challenge to us and that it could infect our boys like a contagious virus. We were already dead set against it. How to strike a balance?
I distinctly remember my father setting down a rule in our family when I was coming of the age that what other kids did and said mattered very much to me. My parents were apparently aware that this was coming (as I later realized myself, as a parent), and early on my dad sat me down one day with this warning:
“I never want to hear that you want something, or want to do something, because ‘everyone else is doing it, or everyone else has it’. That’s the best way not to get it, ever. Period.”
He just threw that out randomly one day, and at the time I didn’t quite understand what he meant or why. But the first time I tried that reasoning on my parents, probably not long after his little talk, he nipped my whining in the bud, with: “Remember what I said. I don’t want to hear it.” Discussion over.
That always stuck with me, and I used the same scenario with our boys when the prospect of them wanting Nintendo was peaking through the cracks.
“Keep this in mind, we will not have Nintendo in our house. If you have friends who have it, yes, you can play with theirs, or at their house, but no, we will never buy it for you, so don’t ask. And I never want to hear: “But everyone else has it, or so-and-so has it. That’s the best way not to get anything.” I couldn’t believe it, my father’s words were channeling through me, even as I cringed, “I sound just like him!”
Soon, our boys did attempt to request it for Christmas. My father’s words again came back to me strong and clear, “Remember what I said. I don’t want to hear it.”
At this point I was nostalgic for a former, simpler toy they amused themselves with on the boat. While we were in a Cuban village, some children had given our boys an old fashioned handmade wax, spinning top that they played with often, but that was in the past. At least here in civilization they were still obsessed with Lego.
But returning to the present dilemma, there may be a redeeming factor (dare I say “only”?) in that this new craze seems to be getting people outside. In my town, however, notorious for rampant street potholes and heaving seismic sidewalk cracks where tree roots seem to be seeking the light of day, Pokémon Go may not be such a good idea. I fear that too many people may end up in the emergency room tripping over these obstacles, with their eyes glued to their phone screens. Even as I write this, I just learned today that two young men fell about 75-100 feet off a bluff in the San Diego area, chasing their Pokémons! I think Nintendo will haunt them too.