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Millions Of Gamers Are Hooked On Pokemon Go

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The first time I heard about Pokemon Go was on Friday. I got a text from a friend that said there's a Poke Stop right by your house. And I only knew what this meant because earlier in the day, I had read a post on NPR's pop-culture blog Monkey See by our own Glen Weldon who is here. Hi, Glen.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: You downloaded it for a piece that ran on Friday. Here we are four days later. Have you played it since?

WELDON: I was nearly level two then, Ari, and I am now level 11, thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: OK. Enough said.

WELDON: Yes.

SHAPIRO: Tell me about what it's like to have this augmented reality experience on your phone superimposed on a real world with real people in it?

WELDON: Well, you know, a lot of people are trading these photos back-and-forth of them interacting with one of these little cartoon Pokemon. And the technology has come so far that we're now doing what Gene Kelly was doing with Tom and Jerry back in "Anchors Aweigh" in 1945. That's...

SHAPIRO: Oh, you mean real people dancing with cartoon characters.

WELDON: Exactly. The weird thing is, though - is that these cartoon characters kind of bounce around right in front of you. You look through your phone, through the camera, and you see them. And so as you are walking around the streets, they just pop up, and you have to do a very not intuitive thing to capture them. I got out of my gym first thing in the morning, and I discovered that my street was teeming with Pokemon evidently.

SHAPIRO: Who knew?

WELDON: So the leaves were rustling - animated leaves were rustling telling me go. So I went, and I got really frustrated because the camera turned on as if there's a Pokemon nearby. And I kept looking around and finding nothing, so I just got really frustrated. And I thought this is - look at this dumb fountain and this dumb park and these women just doing their dumb yoga. And then I realized I am about 8 feet away from these women doing yoga with my camera pointed directly at them.

SHAPIRO: Like some kind of creeper.

WELDON: At their downward dogs, yeah. And so that's when I thought, OK, well, I'm going to put my phone away and walk out of this park as fast as I can.

SHAPIRO: And you have a lot of experience with video games and comic books and other forms of entertainment. Do you see this to be - pardon the phrase - a game changer?

WELDON: I don't know. I mean, there's certainly been some blowback. There's been lots of think pieces. You know, I think basic human decency has to prevail here. The same caveats applied playing a game like this as applied to, you know, life.

Maybe, you know, a place where you might want to stop playing the game is, say, at the Holocaust Museum, for example. And the Holocaust Museum just came out with a thing saying, you know what? We'd love it if you didn't. So, again, basic human decency should prevail, but it is new.

SHAPIRO: There have been police departments warning people about rustling around in the bushes late at night. There have been teenagers arrested for using this game to try to lure people somewhere to rob them.

WELDON: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: Is this a downfall of civilization?

WELDON: (Laughter) You know, I - we went to the Lincoln Memorial which is a Pokemon gym for a Facebook Live piece yesterday looking for people playing this game. We looked for 45 minutes to find somebody who was actually doing it because instead, they were reading about Abraham Lincoln. This is not the downfall of society. This is just another little bend in history.

SHAPIRO: Glen Weldon is a regular on our Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Thanks, Glen.

WELDON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.