The world has been hypnotized the past few weeks with the release of every 90s kid’s favorite trading card game, Pokémon. Niantic, the creator of the original series and app, has taken Nintendo out of what has been a failing company over the past few years to a period of rejuvenation. The app has surpassed all social media outlets and continues to grow by the day with the onslaught of new users attempting to “catch them all.” So what exactly makes the cellular game so addictive?
In short, the game taps into some of the most primitive, rewarding aspects of our homo sapien DNA. From the time mankind first took a step on this earth, we have been a hunting and gathering species, whether we were hunting for animal proteins or gathering edible fruits from amongst the dense foliage. Not to get too sidetracked, but it has been proven that women developed keen abilities of color distinction to find fruit, just as men developed highly tuned hand-eye coordination skills for discovering the movement of prey and reacting with a devastating blow of a spear or other tool. In Pokémon go, the user is constantly on the hunt, whether it be collecting tools of the trade from various nearby locations or reacting to the presence of a Pokémon character within a designated range. As the app demonstrates, the idea of “hoarding” gear correlates directly with the reality of early man. Periods a feast meant a plentiful availability of resources. These realities were few and far between for early man, thus stocking up became ever so important. The development of tribes from nomadic hunting groups meant the ability to sustain rations, weather permitting of course. Pokémon Go ties into the same tendency still printed into our DNA, and so stocking up as much as possible is important, because who knows when the next Pokémon or gear stop will arise.
Many of you may be asking why would a bass fisherman be writing on such a topic that diverts away from the experience of angling for fish actually present in our real world existence? I must first admit that in some sense I am embarrassed to be writing on such a topic, but I hope to relay some very key bullet points to drive home a few key observations from my involvement over the past week. I hope by the end of this entry, player or not, just how basic the emotions of playing this new craze are to the realities an avid fisherman experiences on a regular basis. Although much easier than our real life pursuit, it gives the common person the ability to experience “the thrill of the chase.”
A Known Standing
To the tournament angler, the true test of the skills of a competitor is to compete against other anglers on a local, regional, and even national platform. The most consistent angler at any level makes a name for oneself by regularly placing high in the standings. Standings are the undeniable, weight induced comparison separating winners from the losers. In fishing, you can have all the money in the world or financial backing unlike anyone else in the field, but if you cannot consistently catch fish, you become just another angler in the crowd. Whether introduced early on in your life or developing skills later in life, the only way to becoming great is by doing your homework, spending time on the water, and executing on tournament day.
Like fishing, Pokémon Go, and many virtual games for that matter, separate experience levels and rankings through many of the same avenues, such as a skill level to describe the time a gamer has put in.
A Competitive Platform
In the angling world, tournaments allow an angler to hone their skills under the pressures of time restraint and the anxiety that comes along with competition. For many anglers like myself, we began as grade school athletes, a drive that crossed over into our fishing careers. Competition day becomes the culmination of all your hard work up to that very moment, and the practice days you have put in within the practice period to become as familiar as possible with the water body where you will be competing.
Cellular gaming seeks to replicate much of the same comradery. In the app, “trainers” as they are called, visit designated locations known as gyms, locations in which individuals, as well as the three colored teams of red, blue and yellow compete for dominance within the given locations (real life churches, gyms, etc.). It is here where your skill levels as a trainer, and your characters are put to the test. Skill levels are determined by your ability to catch the characters throughout geographic locations, gaining “stardust” and “coins” from the collecting and handing off of characters to “the professor.” Nearby Pokémon are visualized by a box in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Controlling a gym means gaining experience and leveling up your competitors and team.
Bass anglers are known for their ability to collect astounding amounts of tackle in order to cover all techniques and conditions a fisherman will experience on the water. Although some items may only be used under given environmental conditions and times of the year, it is important to have them at hand as a safety belt for whatever situation will be faced. Whether shopping at the local tackle shop, Dick’s Sporting Goods or tackle wholesalers like Tackle Warehouse, restocking after long days on the water is an ongoing process. Replacing broken rods and reels, restocking after lost weights and other terminal tackle, soft plastics and snagged hard baits is critical to preforming at a competitive level.
For Pokémon Go, visiting what is defined as a “PokeStop” means accumulating pokeballs for catching characters, potions for restoring health and eggs for spawning new characters, the process is an ongoing battle for participating at the ultimate level. These designated locations are scattered throughout the Google maps integrated environment.
So, what can the angling community gain from the technological advancements in such a gaming platform? For one, accessibility is the key to all popular phenomena within our culture. What attracts so many individuals worldwide to the game is the international exposure for the platform. The ease of use allows even the least technologically savvy the ability to participate. For the fishing community, it is important that each of us advocate for the sport we love, and allow avenues for all walks of life to participate. Organizations such as The IKE Foundation, founded by Bassmaster Elite Series pro Michael Iaconelli are paving the way for allowing less fortunate and newcomers in general the opportunity to participate in an activity they may have never been privy to otherwise, providing used gear to newcomers nationwide. The Kid Casters line of products endorsed by professional anglers such as Jimmy Houston and Mark Rose strive to get the next generation of fishermen equipped with starter products for a lifelong appreciation of fishing. It is important that we as a fishing community continue to provide methods by which individuals of all ages can experience what both anglers and environmental groups have worked so hard to protect.
Apps like Pokémon Go are just the beginning of what will be a future of easy access, which in effect can limit, and already has limited the attention span of the individual. In a world that will continue to provide easier methods of conducting daily endeavors, it is important that we hold onto activities with delayed gratification and unknown outcomes such as fishing. Fishing is never as easy as throwing a pokeball with the thumb or index finger. Going forward, in order to grow the sport we must strive to provide outlets for exposure at limited financial costs. The rise in the cost of fishing gear, boats and accessories, although providing technical advantages, will only continue to remove possible future fish heads from the sport. Take the time to introduce a kid to the natural environment just outside the door, and outside a smart phone, for lasting memories help to create new voices to the cause of conservation.