Our Pokémon, ourselves

Cyborgism is here, and it’s the future.

It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly it all started: humans embedding technology into their bodies, becoming something that’s not totally human but also not exactly mechanical. Consider hearing aids, Google Glass.

We took a dramatic step forward a couple of weeks ago when Pokémon Go debuted. In less than a week, Pokémon Go’s number of daily users beat Tinder and rivaled Twitter. It’s one of the most talked about and popular smartphone apps ever.

By now, it’s a familiar sight: packs of people, noses tucked into devices, wandering the streets in search of wild Pokémon. They aren’t just using their phones, though; the phones have become an extension of their reality.

That’s because Pokémon Go takes place in the real world, sort of. Gamers are Pokémon trainers, traversing the world to catch new Pokémon, which are pretty much everywhere. I’ve found Growlithes at the Midtown Farmers Market, Ponytas in Southside Park and, fittingly, a bunch of Rattatas in City Hall. It’s augmented reality. And never before have so many people been unwittingly on the cusp of transforming mankind.

Will our future robot overlords look like Pikachu?

The Sacramento Kings invited gamers to Sleep Train Arena last week with the promise of rare Pokémon stalking the grounds. Hundreds showed up—every single person glued to technology, silently enslaving Pokémon with a flick of a finger.

Some sat in the stadium seats, waiting for Pokémon to come to them. Others fruitlessly searched for an elusive Magmar, allegedly hiding out somewhere in the parking lot.

But my real peek into our new selves took place later that night, when I met up with one of my hardcore Pokémon Go-loving friends who was hellbent on finding rare psychic Pokémon. Our hunt took us to an Elk Grove park swarming with players, their faces illuminated in the darkness by their screens.

What I expected to be a light, 30-minute stroll turned into two hours of pacing around the park.

Catch and walk,” my friend instructed, as I paused to line up a shot. “Catch and walk.”

At one point, three gamers started sprinting across the street, crossing four lanes of traffic, not even taking note of the accelerating cars nearby. My friend pointed.

“We need to follow them,” she said urgently, nearly flying through the thoroughfare before I pointed out the cop nearby.

A few feet away, a massive pack of people were yelling, celebrating. It was a Magmar, an unusual find that kind of looks like a duck on fire. I pivoted my phone around. Why was I not seeing it?

And there it was, in all its red and orange glory. A few Poké Ball tosses later, I caught it. I couldn’t believe I caught it. As I pumped my fist into the air, I visualized my surroundings change into a static blue background, with triumphant horns blasting: the technology became an extension of myself, of my new reality. This is just the beginning, my cyborg friends.