Tagged: Pokémon

Ed Catto: GAMA – Rolling the Dice, Vegas Style!

When you think of a comic shop or a card store, you might think of the fans who shop there or the folks who run it and how they are so passionate about the things they love. Retail shops like these are always the epicenter for focused geek authenticity.

And when you think of Las Vegas, you might think of gambling, or partying, or glitzy entertainment. Vegas isn’t about deep or thoughtful enthusiasm about your passions, it’s about giving vihttp://www.comicmix.com//?p=109466&preview=truesitors a license to be enjoy the moment, and to be both indulgent and shallow without any guilt.

So it’s incongruous, in many ways, that over 400 of the nation’s card/comic shops attend the GAMA trade show this past week in Las Vegas. For more than 20 years this event has helped connect, educate and motivate hobby stores. The Expo focuses on card games (Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Cardfight!! Vanguard, etc.), board games, miniatures and all the related products and services.

Trade publication ICV2 recently reported that the hobby games business is growing at about 10%. Amazingly, this is the 8th year in a row of growth. This growth comes from many different segments. On one hand, Magic: The Gathering grows the business for established fans, and parent company Hasbro seems to be noticing more than ever.

On the younger side, the incredible resurgence of Pokemon proves to be the perfect gateway property for whole industry. The game community does a good job of onboarding and cross promotion.

GAMA estimates there are 3,200 game stores nationwide. And although last week’s GAMA trade shows focused on card games and board games, many of these retailers are hybrid stores and also carry comics.

In fact, there were a lot of the “usual suspects” from the comics world here. It didn’t take long to run across folks like Diamond’s Chris Powell, Skybound’s Shawn Kirkham, or ICV2’s Milton Griepp.

And on the show floor, familiar booths to a comic fan included:

  • Paizo – This publisher was showing off their new Starfinder property and their enthusiasm was contagious. Publisher Eric Mona was on hand, and he also spoke about his writing for Dynamite’s Pathfinder Worldfinder comic, co-starring Red Sonja, John Carter and Tarzan.
  • IDW’s games division was showing off their new board games. I was especially impressed by the gorgeous the cover art to their Planet of the Apes
  • Off World Designs is a geek-culture T-shirt design company and familiar site to many San Diego Comic-Con attendees. Each year they have two booths at that Nerd Prom, who’s formal name is still Comic-Con International, even though nobody ever calls it that.

These retailers are a strategic thoughtful bunch. Since they play strategic gamers and hang around with folks who play strategic games, that makes sense. But card shop owners are, at the heart of it, pretty much like comic shop owners. And as mentioned, they are often one and the same. They are a fun group to spend time with, and you can’t help but be pleased that they could get away for few days and rejuvenate with their peers. They are hard-working entrepreneurs whose DNA is over-stuffed with optimism and persistence.

Martha Thomases: Go, Pokémon, Go!


Over the weekend I noticed my Facebook and Twitter feeds were overrun with new words and phrases. What is a “Pokewalk?” Why were so many people looking for gyms?

As you probably know, the cause was Pokémon Go, a break-out cell phone game that is crashing servers and bringing people together all over the country. This is in addition to a successful roll-out in Australia and New Zealand. In fact, “By July 8, just two days after its launch in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, Pokémon Go was installed on more than 5% of all the Android devices in the U.S., surpassing popular mobile-dating app Tinder, which was running on a little over 2% of all Android devices.”

Get that? Looking for cute little virtual animals is more popular than looking for convenient, no-strings-attached sex.

Sometimes, I just don’t understand kids today.

I missed the most rabid parts of the original Pokémon fad back in the 1990s because my kid was a little bit too old for it, but I can totally understand why this new game is so popular. In the original, you looked for a variety of Pokémon (or “pocket monsters”) on your video game screen, and when you collected the most, you won. Yes, there were more wrinkles to it than that, but the kids I watched play were more excited by the quest than by the battles.

In the new version, the game involves many of the cool features on your smartphone, especially the camera and the GPS. By looking at the world around you via your screen, you can occasionally see a Pokémon, and by swiping across, you can capture it. Then there are a bunch of things you can do with your collection, like taking them to the gym to make them stronger.

When I was at the Green Market on Saturday, talking politics with the folks at the Anthony Road Winery booth, two African-American women came up. One was ready to try wine, but the other was suddenly interrupting, taking pictures, and making us laugh. She was so excited!

Turns out, they had found a Pokémon.

Unlike so many video games, Pokémon Go seems to be encouraging people to get out of their homes, to walk around and explore (even if it’s just for some pixels), even meet new people and talk with them. In some cases, they might even notice the world around them and learn something.

This is a good thing. At least, it’s a good thing for those of us who enjoy a certain amount of privilege. The article in the link really made me question a lot of my assumptions. The author points out that if a black man is playing Pokémon Go, exploring a new neighborhood by walking around and circling in on a Pokémon, there is a real chance that someone will see him, assume he’s a criminal, and call the cops. The fact that he’s only looking at a phone won’t necessarily save him.

Pokemon SquatIt wouldn’t be the first time police have mistaken a phone for a gun. It wouldn’t even be the first time this year.

It’s also disturbing that the game imagery has already been coopted by racists.

Is this any reason to deny people joy? Of course not. The two women I talked to at the market were politically engaged and had been demonstrating all week with Black Lives Matter because of Baton Rough and Minnesota and Dallas, but on a Saturday morning, they wanted some goofy playtime. Whether I want to play the game or not (and, really, I stare at enough screens as it is and I don’t need a new addiction), I sure as hell don’t want to limit anyone else’s fun.

I’d just ask for people, in their zeal, to remember that there is more to life than finding Pokémon. There are other people on the planet, and on the sidewalk. Please don’t get so caught up in your quest that you wander into traffic, or into a unit of Storm Troopers.

I’d like to see Pokémon Go used as a force for good. For example, on Twitter, a person named Kris Straub said, “Dear Nintendo, please put super rare Pokémon at polling places this November.”

Molly Jackson: Roaming Free

Pokemon Sleeping


This past Sunday afternoon, I was exhausted. I had been traveling for two days and had finally been reunited with my bed. Alas, I discovered that I needed to go back out to get some toilet paper from the corner store so I grabbed my phone and purse to head out. I got home over two hours later. No real emergency happened; I found a diverse group of Pokémon hunters on my way back and decided to join up with them to roam my local neighborhood.

Now if you’ve read my columns on a regular basis, you aren’t surprised that I’m playing Pokémon Go. I’m predictable that way. However, even I didn’t predict the all-ages response that Pokémon Go would receive. If you’ve read any article this week, then you’ve seen someone extolling the virtues of this game. And every article talks about the surprise social community that has sprung up overnight. Personally, I didn’t believe it until that day. But when I was walking home from the store, with my phone out in the correct hunting position, it was like I was part of this new community. All walks of life were out doing the exact same thing as me. We were sharing tips on the street and before long, I was joking and cursing with these people whose names I never really learned. Names didn’t matter; we were fellow hunters.

nyc city streetFor the record, teams do matter. #TeamValor!

And the benefits don’t stop there for me. I’ve probably spent more time outside in the past week then I have since back when I was a camp counselor. And I’ve walked a helluva lot more as well. And all of this hasn’t cost me an in-game dime so far. I’ve probably spent a little more than usual on cold beverage during long walks.

With the good comes the bad though. I agree, there are spots where this game just isn’t appropriate. Pokémon Go doesn’t belong in memorial locations, museums or cemeteries. Anyone playing the game in the 9/11 museum or the Holocaust museum needs to rethink their priorities. Not to mention the poor guy up in Massachusetts whose home because a Pokémon Gym. Locations should have an option to remove themselves from the game without any issue but people also need to remain conscientious human beings. Don’t block the sidewalk or a storefront because you need to stop for a catch. Don’t invade people’s privacy to chase a Pokémon down. And whatever you do, do not drive while playing!

The other big concern brought up is the real world implications of playing this game. With the country’s need to presume African American males are doing something wrong, holding a phone out could get another person killed. It’s a disturbing thought that a game as simple as Pokémon Go could do that but, sadly, the events of last week prove that it is possible. Other criminal activity includes a Pokémon Go lure being used to entice hunters to a spot to rob them rather than collect Pokémon. And I won’t deny that as a woman, I have an innate fear of walking too far (especially in an unknown area) by myself, especially at night. This global game provides an excellent opportunity for sexual assault in remote areas that might have a Pokéspot or gym.

All of that should make me want to shut down my account and ignore this game. But instead I’m going to focus on how much fun I had on Sunday. Yea, I was aware of all of these bad possibilities and I was always conscious of my surroundings. I never went anywhere where I would feel uncomfortable. But outside with these people, I connected not just with them, but with the entire community. Now I see my fellow hunters, all ages and genders, catching Pokémon everywhere. And yesterday, when I ended my 1.5 mile overly complicated walk from the subway, I felt really good and happy about the time I spent playing and the people I had met that day.

Will this game still be this popular in six months? Probably not. Right now it is the hot new thing, and that will change. But right now, this country’s favorite pastime is going outside and taking a walk. Who would have thought that would ever happen?