Alden Boon

An Agoraphobic’s Guide to Playing Pokémon GO  


Pokémon GO has swept the world. Everybody wants in on this new augmented reality game. It is fun, and there are bragging rights to earn.  Each wild-caught monster is a trophy.  But what if like me you don’t love crowds and have taken to the philosophy of “Netflix and Chill”? I’ve taken the bold step of heading out to catch one Pokémon. Here is my advice to fellow agoraphobics.

1. I know, you’re eager to start playing the game. But choosing your avatar is a watershed moment: it represents who you are. Carefully mull over your avatar’s hair colour. A Pokémon trainer once said, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” So if you intend to be a cross dresser, have your avatar be the opposite of your current gender.  And yes, the elephant in the room: both avatars, male and female, are slim. Being plus-sized, I too was a bit iffy about that. Not to worry: Niantic has intended for the avatars to be your future projections. After all that walking, you will be slim and fabulous.

2. That searing excruciating pain you feel on your skin? Don’t worry. It’s the sun. What is that? The sun is a star of the solar system, the equivalent of Telperion and Laurelin, the Two Trees of Valinor. It is homo sapiens’ life-force, like a Transformer’s spark.

3. Another Pokémon trainer once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Don’t worry about venturing too far out to the next-block shopping mall that teems with unsavoury types. Just go knocking on your neighbours’ doors. Once they get over the initial shock that their very own Arthur “Boo” Radley has emerged and is right on their doorsteps, ask permission for ingress. Ostensibly ask for sugar or eggs — that should work. Of course, you’re banking on their innate but waning neighbourliness and kindness.

A Pokémon can appear anywhere: on the bedframe, atop a shampoo bottle, right smack on your grandmother’s naughty bits, really, anywhere. You will need some time to search every nook and cranny of your neighbour’s granny and house. When asking your neighbours for the ingredients, be specific — anal even. “I need exactly 152 grams of sugar, in exactly 200 grains.” Or “free-range, organic, pasteurised eggs laid by Rhode Island Red.” It’s possible they will think you are weird beyond words, but that will be the least derogatory thing they’ve said of you.

Once you have found that elusive Abra hiding amongst other deviant accessories in your neighbour’s night drawer, slink out of the house. It’s almost as if you were never there, and your neighbour will think you were a figment of her imagination — and hence not know you have just stolen what-was-rightfully-her Pokémon.

4. Playing Pokémon GO depletes batteries. Yours, not just your smartphone’s. For every five minutes of walking — or 10 steps — head home and recharge.

5. Much will have changed since the 20 years you last stepped out of your house. At the end of a pathway ramp meant for wheelchair-bound or trolley-pushing residents is a flight of stairs. All these unnecessary features will only add to your confusion. Invest in a pair of GPS shoes so that your relatives can track your whereabouts.

6. It is a new world indeed: multitudes of strangers whose eyes are fixed on their phones, pacing up and down and suddenly stopping in their tracks. They flick their index fingers in an upright motion and then launch a celebratory fist bump. Or a speeding Lamborghini that comes to a screeching halt, and then careens off again after you dart the driver a look.  Don’t worry. They are not secret service agents sent to follow you. They are fellow trainers too. Sorry to burst the bubble but you are not the chosen one.

7. As another Pokémon great once said, “Catch ’em all.” It is a mantra, an objective, a sacred tenet. Many people have tried to game the system. They tether their smartphones to their soaring drones and let their birds do the scouting. What to do for us agoraphobics? Flying a drone requires being outdoors and the pain of the sun rays is just too much for our bare skin to bear.

The all-knowing Pixar, from which all great things come, has already given us the answer and inspiration we need.  Carl Fredricksen in 2009 became the first old man with dentures to descend upon Paradise Falls in his house-turned-airship. Thousands of helium balloons were his sail. By learning the aerodynamics and possessing the moxie to die a nasty death, we can navigate the world in search of cute monsters with no need to step out of the house.

8. Pokémon GO will make you say things you never ever thought you would say in a million years. “I’m going to the gym” is one. The gym is a cesspool where shirtless guys and scantily-clad ladies go to hook up. They make lots of sex noises and there is a lot of sweating involved. Pokémon GO’s version is of course less perverted, but still other trainers will stake out at these landmarks. They will try to befriend, and catch you off-guard so they can have first dibs on any appearing Pokémon. They may try to ask invasive questions like “How big are your balls?” Or say things like “Wow, those eggs are looking swell. Are they about to hatch?”  Avoid eye contact at all times and just keep your head down, your eyes glued to the screen.

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.

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