Punch Drunk: Pikachu and Friends Go on a Bender 

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By now you’ve probably heard of the “Pokemon Go” craze that has swept the nation. If you haven’t, then I assume you’re some sort of transcendentalist monk who lives on Walden Pond, and more power to you, because you’ve missed a sad epoch in the age of self-reliant adulthood.

About two weeks ago, Nintendo and the Pokemon Co. launched Pokemon Go, a game for iPhones and Android smartphones featuring the classic video game where players catch and train little monsters called Pokemon. But this game’s use of what the developers call augmented reality is what has people really digging it.

I’ll try to explain. You see, people are playing video games on their phones in which they chase these animated monsters around and then like, you find them and they look like they’re actually in the room with you and then you roll balls at them, which somehow “captures” the little monsters.

That’s pretty much it. Apparently you also can train your monster to fight other monsters.

You’re basically a virtual Mike Vick.

Style’s official millennial correspondent, Colby Rogers, who’s really into computers and comic books and stuff, explains it better:

“The premise is that a young person travels around the game world capturing, training, battling and trading monsters. The monsters — called Pokemon — are found in different locations and come in different themed ‘types,’” he writes. “The goal of the game is to capture as many Pokemon as you can and to become the best trainer in the world. Essentially, it’s Pokemon moving into the smartphone era using your phone’s GPS and mapping capabilities. But instead of walking around an in-game world, you’re walking around a representation of the actual world to capture Pokemon.”

Confused?

I guess my question is, Why are we collecting little virtual monsters? Do you win something by playing the game?

My 30-something co-host on 103.7 Play, Melissa Chase, a seemingly adult mother of two, says that one gets satisfaction from capturing the monsters, which is a nice way of saying that you get nothing. (She then says something about a Rattata being in the hallway before running away, phone in hand.)

She’s special.

It’s probably unfair for me to say that you get nothing out of “Pokemon Go,” because some people have been getting mugged, so that’s something. In Missouri, four men used the game to find their victims by anticipating where people might go through popular Poké Stops, then robbed them blind, Poké Balls included.

Oh and trespassing charges — you can get those too. A Goochland County Sheriff’s Office Facebook post linked a rise in reports of trespassing and suspicious activity during the first weekend of the game’s release. So that’s cool. If you see a suspicious dude creeping around your house, don’t mind him, he’s just capturing imaginary monsters. Perfectly normal.

Plus, people are walking around with their heads buried in their phones, which is a good way to fall into a manhole. So deep contusions are other things you could conceivably get from playing from the game.

On a positive note, this is the most exercise some of these people have had since that one time they had to chase down a taco truck.

Also, and this part I’m actually sort of excited about, Pokemon Go bar crawls are being formed. An RVA Fan Pokemon Crawl is planned for July 30. This is the first sensible thing I’ve heard concerning this game. Let’s get drunk and then walk around the streets with our heads buried in our phones.

I realize that I’m coming off as a crotchety old man who yells at the neighborhood kids here, and that’s not my intent. Maybe I need to bite the bullet and download “Pokemon Go” before it gets stale and everyone stops playing it.

I figure I have about five days left.

For the most part, the game seems to be driving people outdoors and into public spaces together, and I don’t think that’s a horrible thing. And again, we’re moving. Aside from Wii Bowling and the immortal World Class Track Meet (with Power Pad) for Nintendo, which both are classics, Pokemon Go may be the most active video game ever. Would you rather your kid sit on the couch, playing a first-person shooter in which you can literally see someone’s viscera exploding, or outside chasing virtual Japanese monsters?

I’ll go with Pikachu and the gang — at least until we find out that we’re all being brainwashed to trade state secrets by the Pokemon Co. But by then it’ll be too late anyway. S

Jack Lauterback also is co-host of “Mornings with Melissa and Jack” on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at jackgoesforth.

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