I didn’t think a film about Pokémon could make me sentimental—exempting, of course, Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back, which earned tears only because I was seven and fanatical. Then last Sunday, 18-year-old aspiring filmmaker Alexander Steinberg posted “Pokémon GO: Unite NYC,” a short documentary about the Pokémon trainers camping the southeastern corner of Central Park in Manhattan last weekend. It is beautiful.
On that corner, at least five PokéStops stand adjacent to each other, constantly lured up and attracting the rarest of rare Pokémon. This has, in turn, brought hundreds of Pokémon trainers to the spot, now a sort of base camp for Pokémon Go. There, a community formed across lines of gender, race, age and levels of fandom that Steinberg’s video documents lovingly and earnestly.
“This game is gonna end wars,” trainer Shawn Jualready told Steinberg.
“On social media right now, the only two topics you see are racial inequality and Pokemon Go,” said Brimson33. “That showcases exactly how powerful this is, for it to be neck and neck with something as important as social justice.”
“MACHOKE!!!!” a flurry of people interrupt.
Take a look for yourself. The level of neighborly love here is pretty damn heartwarming:
A lot of the 10-minute video documents rabid Pokémon fanaticism, which can’t be ignored. Trainer Dankizard told Steinberg that he’d camped the block for the last four days straight. He ate from the food trucks. He charged his phone on other trainers’ portable chargers. He wore the same clothes and hadn’t showered.
“I’ve got to catch them all,” he explained gravely. “There’s no exception. This is the greatest block in the world.”
Trainer Adam walked 50 Manhattan blocks to hatch his eggs. Trainer Chosungyup bought a new Iphone from the Apple store across the street so he could maximize play. Team Rocket paraphernalia, Bulbasaur headgear and Ash Ketchum hats dotted the crowd. Then, there was the now-notorious Vaporeon stampede:
Despite some borderline violent enthusiasm, Steinberg’s video is something tangible to point to when asked, “Why does Pokémon Go matter?” Some cocktail of nostalgia and gaming brought hundreds of people to a spot, where they would become friends and share in some collective effervescence. The news is divisive, politics bleak. And then, there’s trainer CrobinnMaxxis:
“You know my favorite part about this? Number one my brother and I used to play this as kids. He ends up passing away,” CrobinMaxxis said, pointing up. “He’s up there still, still, having a better fuckin’ collection than I do. But all the violence in the world, brutality, all this fucking racism. Look around here. You see this?” he said, gesturing to the crowd. “Not a single one is the same. Everyone is having a good time. This is what the world needs now.”