If you aren’t living under a rock, you would know that Pokémon Go is all the rage right now. Since its release earlier this month, kids and adults alike can be found walking around the city participating in this free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game on their respective SmartPhones.
A friend and I, along with our kids, decided to gather at the local pool and park in the Palisades because it was a beautiful summer day. After swimming in the pool and enjoying a picnic lunch at the park, the children participated in their anticipated Nerf Gun Battle with the neighborhood kids, who serendipitously happened to be engaging in a Nerf Gun Battle of their own. It was great to hear laughters and giggles from all kids while having fun together. It was even more awesome to see them work as a team while they strategize an eventual capture of the other team’s imaginary fort.
This 30 minute playtime amongst this cool venue of trees, overgrown foliage-turned-hideouts and fantasy battleground surrounded by immaculately manicured Mid-Century homes abruptly ended when the eldest child in our group decided to check out his mobile phone.”What! Pokémons are here!” Our children thereafter opted to catch Pokémon characters in the now-augmented real world rather than continue with their Nerf Gun Battle with the neighborhood kids, whose parents wisely kept their electronic devices at home. “Well, at least they’re still engaging with the environment and are still playing with each other as a team,” a fellow parent at the park commented. Only now, we were watching a group of children huddled together over a telephone trying to capture these characters. It was as if they were a school of fish, except that they were moving slowly.
While this was happening, my friend soon received a last-minute invitation from HNYPT-LA, a Downtown Los Angeles event venue that her brother owned, to Game Grumps’ Pokemon Art Academy Showcase, a one-evening only, surprise pop-up event.
While I do not personally play Pokémon Go on my mobile phone, nor have I welcomed the Pokémon franchise to my life by way of television shows, toy collections and the like (it belonged to my younger sister’s generation, not mine), I never really minded its presence. I actually thought Picachu was cute, so cute that my husband bought me an action figure of him one year as a Christmas stocking stuffer. Years later, after my son received voluminous Pokémon trading cards for his birthday and for the holidays, I began to notice that his school hosted trading card gatherings after class and that his friends were wearing t-shirts adorned with the Poké Ball or Picachu. Even the local comic book stores that we frequent began to show hints of the yellow creature and the red and white ball amongst its array of licensed sellable wares.
Still, I found myself unable to get into it. Maybe that would change if I attended this impromptu art gallery showcase. Art is often my medium of expression, and I often have meaningful conversations about life in general with my children whenever we as a family are engaging in anything art-related. Why would it change now? I’ll probably actually learn something cool. Plus, since it was a Friday night in the summer, I didn’t have to worry about putting my kids to bed early.
Los Angeles traffic on a Friday evening was actually bearable. It was as if everyone decided to stay in so that we could make the 45 drive to Downtown LA within 20 minutes. After parking at a nearby lot, we walked the short two blocks to HNYPT-LA, where we walked the Red Carpet and entered the world of Pokémon.
There’s something magical about art gallery receptions in Downtown Los Angeles. Maybe it is the newness of the pop-up venues. Maybe it is the temporary, fleeting nature of whatever is being showcased in the ever changing part of this City. Maybe it is the energy the fans present for the artwork, mostly created by local artists, that is infectious. Maybe it is because we are actually at the heart of the City.
We happily peruse the artwork adorning the walls of HNYPT-LA.
“But, wait… these aren’t the Pokémon characters.”
I learn from other guests that this is a fine art showcase of Game Grumps’ playthrough of Pokemon Art Academy and that the various subjects featured in the artwork are visual representations of characters, either from the franchise or from our current popular culture. Suzanne Berhow Hansen, the digital artist known in this art medium as Suzy or as Mortem3r, was in attendance, as were the hosts of the Game Grumps YouTube channel and other YouTube channel personalities.
“Look, there’s Egoraptor!”
“Hey, that’s Markiplier!”
“Oh my gosh, this is cool!”
Apparently, our kids were happy to see their adorned YouTube celebrities in living flesh, all standing within two feet away from them. My pal and I, however, still have no idea who these people were. Is this what it was like when parents in the 1950s couldn’t relate to their children’s adoration for Rock-and-Roll music, or when people in the 1990s freaked out over explicit song lyrics rapped by Ice-T?
Maybe no one will notice my friend’s and my apparent lack of knowledge of this scene.
As our older children stalked — I mean, followed — the various YouTube stars, my friend and I decided to take our smaller kids to the walls adorning the artwork so that we can admire them more closely. My little one and I began to talk about how Suzy was able to create a voluminous amount of drawings for everyone here to admire and/or purchase. We talked about how Suzy must have loved to draw as a child, that she learned to play video games when she got older, and then decided to attend art school to perfect her craft in digital drawing.
“I’m going to ask her myself,” my daughter decided.
So we ended the evening with my daughter commiserating with the featured artist of the evening for a good 10 minutes before saying goodbye (“Suzy told me I was cute!” my daughter later reported), all while our older boys gleefully watched their video game playing idols interact with other attendees.
As we walked back to the parking lot, my son jokingly told me, “Hey, look, maybe there’s a Pokemon there, just waiting for us. Let’s go check it out.”
“Maybe next time.”
I realize that my kids and I have a lot more to discuss by way of why they watch other people’s YouTube videos of others playing video games vs. playing the games on their own (thereby robbing them of a sense of self-discovery). I broached the subject during our drive home.
“Mom, don’t you know that’s how I figure out whether games are appropriate for us to play or not? Plus, Daddy already talked to us about all this and he always checks out our screens.”
Ha, from the mouth of babes… and thank goodness my husband actually loves video games. While I have a lot of catching up to do about my children’s current cultural favorites, I don’t have to worry about transparency with them because I know that I can always ask about what’s important to them. I also don’t have to pretend to understand their zeal for something. All I have to do is appreciate the tenacity, passion and hard work that went into the creation of the art form for others to enjoy.
HNYPT – HONEYPOT LA
212 West 12th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
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