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On Pokemon Go, and yucking someone’s yum

There are two phrases that have stuck in my mind recently in regards to people’s excitement about Pokémon Go — and the backlash I’ve seen against that excitement:

Don’t yuck someone’s yum.

Don’t harsh someone’s mellow.

First of all, I don’t play Pokémon Go. I’ve just never been that into Pokémon, and honestly I’ve got too many vidyagame hobbies already.

If you do play, though, I absolutely encourage you to love it with all your nerdy heart. (Although seriously guys, maybe don’t do it at the Holocaust Museum, or while driving). I don’t mind how much you post about it, and I’ll even look through your pictures and admire that Bulbasaur, and wonder why they always seem to be so perfectly perched on household objects.

And I certainly can’t judge someone for walking miles in order to hatch Pokémon, considering I spent the better part of last week — probably more than 50 hours — building the Perfect Modded Skyrim ™.

It makes me happy to see people’s enthusiasm. It reminds me of my own enthusiasm for, say, the Elder Scrolls games and lore, or the works of P.G. Wodehouse, or historical fashion.

If people being enthusiastic and excited makes you bitter and angry… maybe consider what a stone you’ve made of your heart.

… I mean, that sounded really judgmental. But this is something I’ve reflected on a lot, having recently written a post which was basically, “seriously, folks, can we talk about fantasy that isn’t Game of Thrones?” I put a lot of effort, with that post, into making sure that my inner fandom hipster wasn’t channeled, because I didn’t want to trample on something people loved. I had Adina, who’s a huge fan, proofread it. I hope I succeeded in being more educational than judgmental.

Personally, my crabbiness about “popular stuff” is reflective of wishing more people were into my (semi-niche) hobbies. I mean, yeah, SFF is bigger than its ever been, and we live in a world where well-groomed, popular teenage girls now ask each other who their favorite Doctor is — but I still wish more people would geek out about, say, Dragaera with me.

But I think there’s a difference between that crabbiness, and the mean-spiritedness I’ve seen at the expense of Pokémon Go players. There’s a lot of talk about “immaturity.” Some people believe adults shouldn’t play games.

You know what games are? Stories.

If you don’t believe me, listen to your coworkers describe what happened in Tuesday’s All-Star game. It has a beginning, middle, and end. There is conflict. There is a protagonist, and an antagonist. (Unlike many stories, opinions vary on which side is which!)

You know what stories are? The fundamental building blocks of what make us human. There’s a reason it’s so important that people see themselves reflected in fiction — it’s part of how we know we’re real. It’s the mirror recognition test.

So mocking someone for loving a certain game, implying they’re not mature? It’s punishing people for loving a narrative too much. It’s in the same spirit as posting spoilers. You are saying you don’t respect how they construct their personal narrative.

You are saying you don’t respect them.

This is what you are doing when you yuck someone’s yum.


Enjoy this guy’s enthusiasm. I hope he never loses that passion.

  1. I have no reaction to Pokemon Go either way. I’m not playing it, partly because it’s a battery hog and my phone has shit battery life, partly because I wouldn’t have anyone to PvP against here due to not speaking the language. But I don’t object to it, and think it’s a neat idea, and think there would be a bunch of other cool AU possibilities. (I also think people should dress up as premodern warriors and do boffer duels in Times Square; the tourists will enjoy watching that at least as much as they enjoy watching 20 people in the same Elsa costume.)

    More to the point, I think there are valid reasons to react negatively to various fandoms. There’s a politeness aspect to it, so I wouldn’t talk about how irredeemable Game of Thrones (not ASOIAF) is and tag Adina, but there are valid reasons to say “this sucks.”

    1. The fandom could be politically or socially problematic. If people call themselves Tyler Durden online, I reserve the right to mock Fight Club’s romanticism for violence. In SFF fandom, I think Heinlein is the big politically problematic one with a fervent fan club.

    2. The fandom could be overrating bad media, for whatever reason. On hindsight it’s easy to say that the Star Wars prequels suck, but they had tons of fans at the time (I took until about age 15 to start disliking The Phantom Menace, and I was influenced by fandom), and you can still find people who think they’re not bad. Weiss and Hickman seem universally hated in SFF fandom in North America, but there’s a significant minority of people who like Dragonlance as guilty pleasure.

    3. There may be something bad about the context of the work, if not about the work itself. Example: maybe the Hunger Games isn’t bad (I’ve never read or watched it), but the movies rip off Battle Royale, and I think people who are into that sort of story should watch Battle Royale.

    • I clicked post before finishing.

      4. There may be something lost in adaptation, which may itself say negative things about the work. Examples: Rome veers from real history in systematic ways, in order to portray more women as catty bitches (Atia and Servilia). Game of Thrones veers from source material in ways that play up same (Margaery, Arya vs. Waif) and sideline women who cannot be turned into this archetype (Catelyn).

      It’s okay to criticize things, even when people like them. And it’s okay to criticize fandoms for liking crap, especially when there’s a pattern to the crap.

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