Sarah Boutwell plays the augmented-reality smartphone game Pokemon Go at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, Monday July 11, 2016. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

I've said it half-jokingly for years, but the release of "Pokemon Go" has cinched it. I'm officially a curmudgeon.

Lately, it seems like everyone is playing and discussing the newly launched mobile game, which is based on the 20-year-old "Pokemon" video game franchise. Assuming you're one of the few uninitiated people left, here's a quick debrief.

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Casey Phillips

"Pokemon Go" players walk, using their own two feet, around the real world, seeking out and capturing fictional creatures who appear on their smartphone as digital models displayed in their device's camera view — a technique called "augmented reality." While out and about, they also can visit real-world locations designated as "pokemon gyms," which serve as sites for territorial struggles between the three teams to which players can pledge their allegiance.

After its July 6 launch, "Pokemon Go" achieved popularity beyond what anyone anticipated. Less than 10 days out, it's already the largest mobile title ever released, with an estimated 65 million players. That's more users than Twitter has in the U.S., and "Pokemon Go" players spend more time with the game each day than Facebook's users, on average.

Lately, "Pokemon Go" is all anyone is talking about, whether they're playing or simply baffled as to why everyone is staring at their phones and walking into traffic. Mainstream news outlets have issued a flood of reports of "Pokemon Go" users causing car pileups, trespassing and even getting robbed or stabbed while on digital safari.

For my part, "Pokemon Go" landed with a dull thump. I downloaded it and spent time in an aimless hunt along the streets of St. Elmo, where I found a few pokemon and leveled up a couple of times.

Eventually, I realized I was getting exercise — a plus — but I simply wasn't having much fun. "Pokemon Go" is weak and fairly feature-bland as an actual game. It's only with groups of friends that it shines as you coordinate hunts or plan battles to take over gyms.

I find I lack the inclination to engage with games on that level anymore. After weighing the little free time I have as the father of a 1-year-old against the prospect of wandering the streets looking for digital creatures, the game came up sorely lacking. To be honest, an uninterrupted nap sounds far more appealing.

So I suppose I'll leave the quest to catch 'em all to the millions of people who clearly already are obsessed. Meanwhile, I'll wait for the inevitable fizzle when its popularity dies down and my newsfeed returns to the usual mix of cat videos and election-year memes. I can't wait.

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.


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