How Pokemon Go is a lot like Hee Haw, and how that should both relieve you and frighten you

This video shows thousands of Pokémon Go players in Taiwan stampeding after a Snorlax — a relatively rare creature in the Pokémon pantheon.

It's kind of unbelievable.

You may think this is a sign of the apocalypse. A signal that human beings have lost all sense of what is good and right. End times.

People have suggested that at the very least, this is an example of priorities gone awry. 

I see it slightly differently.

From the 1950's through the 1980's, enormous numbers of human beings watched television with little choice over quality or time slot. In the United States alone, there were three television networks (CSB, NBC, and ABC), and viewers had no ability to record or time shift programming. Cable television did not exist, and services like Netflix and Hulu weren't even imaginable. Viewers were at the mercy of programmers who had very little competition and little incentive to innovate or experiment. 

As a result, atrocious television programs were oftentimes watched by huge audiences.  

For example, from 1969-1971, more than 20 million American households watched a program called Hee Haw, which is often identified today as the worst television show ever aired. Despite how truly terrible this show was, approximately one in seven Americans tuned in weekly.

But these viewers remained in their homes, unseen and unheard except when it came to the Nielsen ratings. 

Since 2010, more than 125 million people have played the video game Call of Duty for more than 25 billion hours, which is longer than the entirety of human existence. The numbers are truly astronomical, but like the viewers of Hee Haw, these gamers have remained behind closed doors.

Today Pokemon Go is played by about 10 million users daily, which is smaller than the audiences for both Hee Haw and Call of Duty. The only difference between Pokemon Go and the Call of Duty players and the Hee Haw viewers is that the Pokemon Go players have emerged from their homes and entered a world where people can see them playing their game. 

The world has not changed. We simply see it now. 

This is not to say that I support Pokemon Go, Call of Duty, or Hee Haw as good ways to spend your time. In moderation, they are probably fine (except for Hee Haw, which was never fine), but the problem is that many of these things are not pursued in moderation.

Instead, they are consumed to the exclusion of other important aspects of a well rounded life.

For the enormous numbers of people who sit down in front of the televisions every night from 8:00-11:00 or the gamers who plays during every free moment of their lives, these pursuits become questionable when they prevent people from enjoying other aspects of a whole and complete life.

But don't view this video from Taiwan as something new and frightening. People have been consuming questionable content in enormous numbers for decades. This is not new. It's simply visible. We can see what has previously been hidden behind closed doors.  

In 2015, the average American watched more than four hours of television daily.
The average video game player spent almost seven hours playing gaming. 

This - much more than the recent obsession with Pokemon Go - should frighten us all.

At last I have a plan for old age

When I was young, I played a lot of video games. I started on an Atari 2600 and eventually moved onto an Atari 5200, a Nintendo, PC gaming, online gaming, and a great many coin-operated arcade games.


I stopped playing video games about ten years ago, opting instead to use my time to write, read, play golf and poker, and do other things. Now that I have kids, my desire to play has waned considerably.

If given the choice of playing with Clara and Charlie or some nonexistent enemy on a computer screen, I choose my children every time.

But I didn’t stop loving video games. I just found better and equally enjoyable ways of being productive. But I’ve often thought about when and if I will play video games again.

Now I know. 

Author Dan Kennedy said something on stage recently while hosting a Moth StorySLAM in New York. I can’t remember why it came up, but he said that his plan for old age is to play video games. He said it facetiously (I think) and made a joke about it before moving on, but I found myself sitting there, thinking, “Yes. That could be my plan for old age. Play lots and lots of video games.”

I have no intention of every growing old or dying, but there may come a time when I have to slow down a bit. When I have more time on my hands. When the desire to sit slightly more often overtakes me.

When that happens, video games will be waiting for me.

It’s brilliant.

At last I have a plan for my late nineties and early hundreds.

Call of Duty 56.

I can’t wait.

The Michael Jackson video game was a thing.

Sometimes you come across facts that you need to say aloud to as many people as possible because you just can’t believe that they are true.

Like this:

In 1988 and 1989, video game manufacturers released video games for the arcade, the computer and Sega’s video game platform based upon Michael Jackson’s film, Moonwalker, in which Michael Jackson must rescue kidnapped children from the evil Mr. Big while incorporating synthesized versions of his greatest hits and many of his classic dance moves.

I played a lot of video games in the 1980s and 1990s, both in arcades and at home.

Moonwalker was never one of them.


There are no easy answers when it comes to video games and violence. Nor is the research on the issue settled.

Do violent video games result in an increased level of violence among young people?

It's easy to say yes. It seems to make sense. It allows us to direct our efforts  at a specific source. But consider research reported in the New York Times:

The proliferation of violent video games has not coincided with spikes in youth violent crime. The number of violent youth offenders fell by more than half between 1994 and 2010, to 224 per 100,000 population, according to government statistics, while video game sales have more than doubled since 1996.

In a working paper now available online, Dr. Ward and two colleagues examined week-by-week sales data for violent video games, across a wide range of communities. Violence rates are seasonal, generally higher in summer than in winter; so are video game sales, which peak during the holidays. The researchers controlled for those trends and analyzed crime rates in the month or so after surges in sales, in communities with a high concentrations of young people, like college towns.

“We found that higher rates of violent video game sales related to a decrease in crimes, and especially violent crimes,” said Dr. Ward, whose co-authors were A. Scott Cunningham of Baylor University and Benjamin Engelstätter of the Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim, Germany.

This does not mean that violent video games are not contributing to some of the violence that we have recently seen from young men in this country. There are statistics in the New York Times piece that also lend credence to the argument.

It simply means that there are no easy answers to this difficult question, and we must be wary of latching onto the easy answers, lest we ignore the ones more difficult to surmise.