contributed by:Pokémon Go: The Jerk of Gaming
Rich Buchanan, Managing Director

It’s the latest rage.  If you haven’t at least heard of the newest phenomenon sweeping the Internet, Pokémon Go, you probably aren’t going to be reading this blog either.  Developed by Niantic and published by none other than The Pokémon Company, Pokémon Go is a singular sensation that is breaking all sorts of records, like rate of adoption, that are a marketers dream.  The strength of the app’s launch drove the stock of Nintendo, who holds the licensing to the Pokémon universe, up twenty-five percent.  It is nothing short of a sensation.

The Success of Pokémon Go

The allure of Pokémon Go goes beyond the continuation of one of the most successful brands ever.  It is the first augmented reality game that has seen such high level of play.  Unlike previous games in the franchise, players in Pokémon Go are playing in the real world, augmented by the app.  Players must travel, largely on foot, to achieve their goals.  The running joke on the meme stream is that the game has done more for childhood obesity in one week than the First Lady did in 8 years in office.  There is truth to this statement.  My own teenagers have walked more in the past two weeks than the last two years, or so it seems.  Even my younger one, with a freshly minted driver license, takes the new-found freedom of a car and meets with friends to walk and find Pokémon.

One of the tenants of being a Jerk, in the parlance of Surdak & Co., is to do first and figure out the consequences as you go.  However, this paradigm does not mean thought shouldn’t be given to certain aspects ahead of time.  To not think things through can also just make you a jerk.  Pokémon Go gives us great examples of both types of jerks.

Pokémon Go Negative Reviews

There have been widely publicized complaints, anecdotal and real, of trespassing incidents, car accidents, people falling off cliffs, and hordes of zombie-like teens roaming the streets with their faces glued to their phones (the last item being not too unfamiliar regardless of the game).  There is a din of complaint, largely from the “adults”, that the kids need to pay more attention and that the game is a hazard.  Even the obvious health benefits are eschewed by some under the “in my day we didn’t need AR to go for a walk”.  All these complaints and criticisms are what is to be expected when something is Jerked.  While I have no proof, I’d find it hard to believe that the makers of the game did not have a conversation about such things and said to themselves “we’ll work that out” and kept moving forward.  The allure and success of Pokémon Go, including these distractions, bears all the hallmarks of something that radically and unalterably shifts the domain of which it is a part.  They’re Jerking their world.

Pokémon Go is a Jerk

Not every issue that has arisen with Pokémon Go falls into this category.  When the Pokémon Go app was first launched, iOS users were presented two log-in choices, one of which was using your Google credentials.  When the Google credentials were used, the app was granted full access to the user’s Google account.  While the full technical implications of this access are still being debated, it certainly gave the appearance that the app had complete access, including the ability to send emails.  The outcry reached the US Senate and questions about privacy were raised across the Internet, with social media amplifying the noise.  Parents were upset and the level of participants dropped noticeably.  The developer’s cries of “honest mistake” were challenged since they were incubated within Google and clearly should have known better.  This is an example of not thinking something thoroughly through enough.  It is clearly not an aspect where Jerk principles should be applied, it’s more of they’re just jerks for not thinking it through.  Laziness does not equal Jerkness.  The developer has released an application update to fix the issue, but the damage was done.
The principles of Jerk do not mean you need to think things out.  Au contraire, they mean you need to think things through more thoroughly.  To truly be revolutionary, you need to know what can and cannot be re-accelerated.  Being a Jerk is about vision, thoughtful planning, and disruption.  It’s not about just seeing where things fall.  That’s just being a jerk.

Rich Buchanan is an engineer and technologist who is also one of the adults over thirty who has played Pokémon Go since its release.  He is currently hunting for a Jolteon.