Pokemon Go: Revisiting the Columbine Problem

Original Essay on Cafe Avant Garde

On April 20, 1999, two students named, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, went on a shooting spree in Columbine High School killing 12 people and injuring 20 others. At this point in time, this shooting was dubbed, “the worst school shooting in American history.” With the mourning and the grieving that occurred in response to the tragic incident, came many puzzling questions: the prominent one being, “Why?” Why did two seemingly regular students decide to kill a number of people? Over time, this question spurred a debate on what to blame their actions on, with many pointing their fingers at gothic culture and secular music.

Fast forward 17 years, and the same kind of debate has spurred up with the release of a kid-friendly Nintendo mobile game called, Pokemon Go. This is a game where the player is supposed to actually roam around to find certain creatures, which are called pokemons. This has become a huge fad since its release with its mass users. But along with the popularity came the controversy. For the sake of playing, people have roamed into Holocaust memorials, stumbled upon drug stops, caused multiple deaths and injuries, and is even ruining lives in the most uncanny ways. This has caused people to target Pokemon Go saying it’s a bad influence to kids and harmful to anyone. And this target towards creations of designers and artists has been going for a long time even before Columbine, which I think is mostly misguided.

Before writing this essay, I was going to title it, “In Defense of Art,” but I don’t want to be taking this time to defend art but rather talk about the problems of our blame on a certain target. At hindsight, blaming Pokemon Go for tragedies is reasonable. But also at hindsight, blaming a simple game made for kids for tragedies doesn’t. But for some reason, what always never seems reasonable at hindsight is having multiple problems to be looked at, rather than just one.

Maybe Pokemon Go is a problem. Maybe the psychological behaviors of children are problems. Maybe the more lax parents are to blame. But in the end, simply targeting one thing because it’s something that’s easier to target, creates a whole other problem.

After the Columbine incident, one of the people that were blamed was Marilyn Manson. In response to the blames, he wrote an essay replying to and addressing all those who blamed him for the shooting. There he defends himself and attacks society (even mentioning the fact that the two students didn’t even listen to his music). And though I don’t agree with everything he believes in, I do agree when he satirically writes, “It was unthinkable that these kids did not have a simple black-and-white reason for their actions.” And in times of problems, we always tend to incline towards the imaginable “solution to end all problems,” but there’s almost always no such thing. In a world where there are much more important issues than Pokemon Go, this is really important to consider, whether it’s the racial inequality or our fight against terrorism. We try to accommodate, hoping that solutions are simple, easy, and “black-and-white,” but that wasn’t the case for Columbine and it isn’t the case for the issues we’re facing today. I can only hope that we start perceiving the solutions to many problems for what they really are: grey and blurry ones. ⬛

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