It's become a verb.
Families that Pokemon together, stick together. The massively popular phone app "Pokemon Go" has lured herds of young people from their rooms, where they were glued to their screens, into the great outdoors, where they are glued to their screens.
In many cases, they're allowing their parents to join the hunt.
The PokeCraze can be perplexing for those who missed the earlier Pokemon era, circa the late '90s, and downright scary for the tech-reluctant. "Why are people getting into car accidents and falling off cliffs playing a video game?" they might wonder.
And how can you tell the difference between a zombielike human playing "Pokemon Go" and a zombielike human texting, surfing or tweeting?
I turned to my resident experts, an 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, to explain this viral phenomenon to their clueless parents, aunt and uncle. None of the adults would know the difference between a Charmander or Bulbasaur if one kicked them in the Pokeballs.
These were actual questions posed by the adults, half of whom can decipher and write complex legal documents. (Disclaimer: The writer is not among that half.)
The lesson began inauspiciously.
Adult: So, are you a Pokemon?
Child: No. You are a trainer who catches Pokemon.
Adult: How does the game know where everything is?
Child: There's a GPS-enabled map.
Adult: So, you want the Pokemon to know you are at the park? You want the Japanese programmers who developed the game to know everything you're doing?
Child: There are 21 million people playing Pokemon.
Adult: Do you have Pokemon in your house? Show me how to catch one.
Child: They spawn randomly in the real world. I have to wait for them to show up on the phone screen.
Adult: Where is the start button?
Child: It starts when you press the app.
Adult: What's the object of the game? How do you win?
Child: You catch all the Pokemon. There's no such thing as "winning."
Adult: Are they like your soldiers?
Child (puts head down in his hands): Oh my god.
The tutorial went downhill from there.
Still, it resembled reports of other similar conversations happening around the country. One woman said her mother still believes there's a real-life prize to collect at the "end of the game."
Another said she thought it was a trap used by criminals to lure and rob people. (That has happened, but it's not the intended use.)
That's not to say that plenty of adults haven't caught the Pokemon bug. One player said it tapped into some kind of OCD impulse he has about collecting things. Well, imaginary animated creatures are even cheaper than souvenir magnets, and less frightening than Annalee dolls.
I wanted to know how I would be able to distinguish the "Pokemon Go" people running into poles from the texters doing the same.
My teenager explained that the players have distinct characteristics. They hold the phone like an artist's palette in their palms while they walk, instead of directly up to their faces. They aren't looking down constantly. They will stop at random places and look around. While riding a bike, they may be holding the phone upside-down in a power-saving mode, she said.
But the biggest giveaway is that you can see the game on their phone screen.
You might also overhear Pokemon players speaking a distinct Poke-dialect, discussing the various creatures and their powers. You might spot a player by their distinctive plumage, such as a bright yellow T-shirt with a nonthreatening cartoon face on it.
You may have seen stories about people playing the game in inappropriate locations, such as the Holocaust Museum, a national cemetery or other such memorials. It's perfectly acceptable to give these people dirty looks. If I knew how, I'd share instructions on how to set all their captured Pokemon free.
There may be untapped potential in the game's ability to drive behavior.
One of the adults receiving the Pokemon crash course in my home wanted to know if she could hide Pokemon in her child's backpack to encourage him to study.
"That's totally not how it works," the child said.