A Bulbasaur was nearby. I was excited, pacing through the stairs next to the IOEC cafeteria. Once up, I looked to my left and saw another student taking a picture of a seemingly empty wall. On any given occasion, this encounter would have been awkward, to say the least. Instead, we looked at each other, shared a smirk, and went our separate ways. I knew, of course, that he was playing Pokémon GO, because so was I.
The game, announced back in 2015, took the world by storm and amassed more users than Twitter after just one week of its launch. By Week 2, huge amounts of people in Lebanon were playing a game that was not yet officially available in their country. But the Lebanese people are creative like that, and AUB students are no different.
This year’s summer semester was colorful: red, blue, and yellow took over the campus. Students were joining the ranks of teams Valor, Mystic, and Instinct on a daily basis; plunging AUB into some sort of playful turf war. The virtual Pokémon gym located next to the campus’ Medical Gate would change colors (between the three teams) multiple times a day. It was on.
But gyms weren’t the only attraction Pokémon players sought: there were also Pokéstops spread across campus. These virtual stops (where a player can get necessary items like PokéBalls) were positioned all over AUB, spreading from Main Gate all the way to Hostler. And with these stops came the Lure Modules that lured many Pokémon – and subsequently, players – to their location. That’s when the game’s social aspect manifested.
Players gathering around Lure Modules waiting for the next Pokémon to pop up would talk to each other about their collections and brag over that rare Charmeleon they caught next to their living room’s chimney. More often than not, these discussions turned into more serious and personal talks as the students started asking each other about majors, years and the sort. At times like these, Pokémon GO proved to be not just a game, but a social experience.
Just like any other trend at AUB, however, Pokémon GO’s popularity dwindled almost as fast as Nintendo’s stock prices. Enthusiastic players on campus are almost nonexistent today, just two months after the game’s release. They’ve simply moved on.
It felt good to catch some of the creatures we grew to love and the long walks were good exercise. Pokémon GO was a lot of fun, but little else, a passing craze. If we ever feel the sadistic urge to “Catch ‘em All” again anytime soon, we’ll just turn on our Gameboys and play the actual video games.