How Did We Get Here?

March 23, 2010 at 7:08 pm 14 comments

Via today’s New York Times :

Released just last week, Nintendo’s Pokewalker is a stopwatch-sized motion detector compatible with Pokeman HeartGold and SoulSilver that lets players  get their Pokémon fix even when they’re away from their Nintendo console.

Pokewalker follows on the heels of Nintendo’s Personal Trainer Walking which was marketed primarily to adults who wanted motivation to exercise.

A player can transfer any Pokémon from a game to the Pokéwalker and walk it through virtual routes as he walks around in real life.  When he walks, a player earns Watts that he can use to encounter and catch wild Pokémon, search for hidden items or unlock new routes. Nintendo says the device is designed to give players added incentive to keep their Pokémon with them wherever they go. As an (apparently) unintended side-effect, the device may also encourage sedentary geek children to get more exercise.

According to The Times, if you buy your child a Pokewalker:

You may also notice some unusual activity, such as increased running around or a sudden willingness to take the dog for a walk. That’s because the devices allow you to pull your little Pocket Monsters (or Pokémon) from the game and strengthen them with real-world movements, at home or at school. Watch out, teachers.

How did we get to a place where the soulless animation on a brightly-colored video game accessory provides more motivation for our children to get out and move than the living, breathing, feeling, under-exercised, under-stimulated dog sitting at their feet?

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Canine Calculus Old Saw New Science

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bluntobject  |  March 23, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    When I was growing up, we got a dog because my father wanted a dog. He didn’t want to walk the dog, so that became one of my chores. Being told to walk the dog took a lot of the fun out of it.

  • 2. SmartDogs  |  March 23, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    I really hate clients who come in and expect their children to be responsible for the dog. I’ve even had a few who really and truly thought that it was appropriate for their minor children to be responsible for dogs with bite histories.

    I do not enjoy re-educating them.

  • 3. Wild Dingo  |  March 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I know, right? i especially hated that STUPID sony dog robot. dumbest invention ever. if you want a dog, get a dog. and deal with all the cons that go with pros (poop, walk, train). that’s just freaking LIFE. And learn to live with the ups and downs of life and cope and grow. if you don’t want a LIFE, then get a robot and stay stagnet and boring your entire life.

  • 4. Mike  |  March 24, 2010 at 6:08 am

    I think it’s entirely that children aren’t involved in training dogs as a fun pastime. They don’t know how, so they don’t know how to make a game or an achievement system out of it.

    Honestly, I think if you structured children’s dog training the way you do pokemon you could get a lot more interest. One on one skill challenges, maybe make sort of a combat game out of tricks – doing a sit does 5 HP damage, unless you counter with a roll over! – to get the competitive juices flowing, train the kids how to train, and give them something to do with the dogs in a competition bracket. The only time I took training seriously as a kid was when I was going to compete in 4-H with it, and even then… it was a very abstract, end of the road thing, there wasn’t a lot of exterior immediate reinforcement.

    If the dog isn’t trained, and you don’t know how to train it… they’re a lot less fun. Being jumped on or throwing the ball and having the dog either ignore it or take it and run away is not as exciting as pokemon. Think of how you train dogs to like training… you reward them immediately when they do something well. Pokemon (and most well-designed video games) do that in SPADES. Learning dog training on your own has a few of those moments, and a lot of getting frustrated with your poor dog because *you* don’t know how to communicate with him.

  • 5. SmartDogs  |  March 24, 2010 at 9:28 am

    [sigh] I was not clear enough. As Mike and Bluntie point out, it isn’t the children who are at fault here, it’s the adults who renege on their responsibility to their dogs and their children.

    A rude, unmannerly dog is no fun to spend time with – and neither is a rude, unmannerly child. But sadly, many adults today are a lot more interested in having fun with the children and animals who depend on them than in fulfilling their responsibilities as parents and pet owners. Focusing on being your child’s or your dog’s buddy instead of their leader and guide is selfish.

  • 6. Eleanor  |  March 24, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I think it’s a matter of what you’re introduced to early, and what you grow comfortable with. When I was a child, I believe there were 3 television channels. There was no cable, no satellite, no computers, no video games. We got up in the morning, got breakfast and dressed, and then we were thrown out of the house to “go play” until the next meal time. If you stayed in the house, you were probably going to get stuck with a bunch of chores. “Go play” was with the other kids in the neighborhood whose Moms had done the same thing as mine. We lived in the country, so the neighborhood extended for a mile or more in any given direction.

    We climbed hills and trees, bothered frogs and toads, if we could find a rope, we’d build a swing. If we could find a couple of boards, we’d build a fort. We rode bikes. We played baseball or volley ball.

    My father had “huntin’ dawgs” when I was born. By the time I was 5, I was given my own dogs so I’d leave his alone. I never walked my dog. She simply went everywhere I went.

    I wasn’t even allowed to use a calculator until I got to college.

    My kids HAD (as in it was required) to have a calculator so they could start kindergarten. By the time they were in high school, scientific graphing calculators were required. We got our first computer because the kids needed it for school.

    We have raised a completely screen-oriented society. Screens are (relatively) controllable and predictable. There are no weather extremes, no bugs, no loose dogs chasing you. In theory, if you do everything right, you’ll never be made uncomfortable or disappointed. If something isn’t going right, you either fix it or get a new machine. If things ARE going right, you’re constantly extrinsicly rewarded.

    When that’s your base perspective, the real world is either really boring or really scary and uncomfortable. Either way, ain’t nobody walkin’ no dog out there.

  • 7. SmartDogs  |  March 24, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Wow. I think you nailed it.

    The endless array of screens in our lives not only don’t ask much from us – but they pay out like slot machines. A small disappointment here, a minor reward there and an occasional major pay out. I grew up much like you did – but still sometimes find that the one-eyed brain suckers draw me in too far.

    I think I need to go build a fort. Or maybe an addition to the chicken coop.

  • 8. Grahund  |  March 24, 2010 at 10:18 am

    When I brought home my last puppy, an 8 week old GSD, I took him next door to meet the neighbor’s kids. The mom was very nice and fawned over the puppy, but when she called her kids to come see, they were “busy” watching TV. Mom was clearly embarrassed. We walked into the room where the kids were watching TV and they literally did not look up. I chatted politely to Mom for a couple of minutes and then came back home. Wow.

    If those had been my kids I think that I would have picked up the TV, smashed it to the ground and stomped on the pieces. These kids are future voters. Think they can understand MSN and BSL?

  • 9. SmartDogs  |  March 24, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Unfortunately the way they’ll probably learn to “understand” it will be through electronic media conveniently provided by folks like HSUS and PETA…

  • 10. Mongo  |  March 24, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Dog ownership has CHANGED because average life styles have changed.
    My friend and I had a very interesting conversation once recalling our childhoods. We both grew up poor. He grew up country poor, I grew up urban poor.
    Even in the country, they always had dogs around who were expected to behave or be culled. In my urban setting, my parents could not afford the apartments that allowed pets (even though everyone had a “sneaked in cat”).
    He spent his childhood outdoors with other children. We lived in urban areas too dangerous (traffic/crime) for children to “play unattended”.

    Time has also changed many areas. My husband remembers running the streets of the town he grew up in (and where we live now) with other children and their loose dogs. One had a Basset Hound that adored the children and another had a Cocker. The traffic in the area is now so dense and the liability laws concerning dogs such a thing would be insane.
    At ten, he and his friends and their dogs used to all camp at the river. Allowing his own children to do such a thing now would likely result in police involvement!

    About a year ago, I was chided by other trainers for never allowing my young children (under 12) to simply walk the dogs around with no adult. BUT because I am very active with the dogs, and out hours a day onleash, I was fully aware of the threats of LOOSE ill mannered dogs, and nut job adults who feel the need to “pet” (maul) any dog they meet. I stood by my decision, then and now. (Exactly what is a child supposed to do if their onleash pet is attacked by a larger dog???)

    Recently, in a near suburb, a ten year old girl and a friend were approached by a man admiring the new English Bulldog puppy. The friend became suspicious and ran to get an adult. The adult arrived to find the girl upset- the man had grabbed the puppy and driven away.
    Sad.
    But considering what else could have transpired, I think they should be greatful.
    If its common knowlege predators will use dogs as bait to lure away children, where is the logic of strapping bait to the child??

    My kids (16 and 13) got the Pokemon thingy with a game they talked me into ordering. They said its not that interesting.
    btw- they like dogs that match their interests- my son (13) has a rescue Pekingese that loves to spend the day watching him play video games.
    My daughter (16) has an insanely spoiled pair of small dogs that DO behave when she insists or she is gone- her form of adolescent rebelion is refusing to train them the way her mother and father train dogs! LOL
    Just my .02

  • 11. Pooch Professor  |  March 24, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I think I need to go build a fort. Or maybe an addition to the chicken coop.

    I think you need to build a bicycle ramp in the street out of an old board and a cinder block or two, and see how high you can fly. ;-)

    Lately, I have been aching for a good game of Frisbee. Playing softball once a week helps remind me of my youth–I can’t run as fast as I used to, but I can place base hits now. I distinctly recall being “all-time quarterback” in pickup touch (or tackle) football games in the neighbor’s yard, neighborhood dogs playing by our sides.

    And I remember taking the family dog to obedience training in the local shopping center parking lot with my mom. What a sense of accomplishment I had when she graduated!

    I love being a grown-up, but I feel for kids who will never experience the joys of woods and forts and bugs and pickup games and summer evenings spent out in the twilight. To find a child now that was truly “into” training the family dog instead of viewing it as a chore would be lovely.

  • 12. Mongo  |  March 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    http://www.cracked.com/article_18461_5-creepy-ways-video-games-are-trying-to-get-you-addicted.html

    There is no competeing with the marketing savvy that is behind getting people/kids to stay tuned in to screens- as a parent I never allowed savvy marketing to be mistaken as children’s “prefernces”.
    The kids understood people made money when they bought a game.
    They were not “GAMERS”.
    They were customers. They were consumers. Being a “Gamer” is NOT a personality trait- its what you are when you have money to to play video games.
    Truly learning respect for ability, respect for limitations, creative solutions and empathy for confusion and the discipline to continue mundane drudgery for the health of another creature is never going to be the source of ”rewards” the marketed systems are, just the oposite in fact. Sometimes a very sad failure is part of reality, but its never part of screen time. Its just not profitable.
    And these marketers also know that asking for customers to be PATIENT is a mistake as loyalty is also in short supply.

    Dogs are REAL. And reality just isn’t something many adults are adept at dealing with either thru choice or ability. So its no wonder many kids would rather play video games than spend time with a dog even the parents ignore.

  • 13. Darin  |  March 25, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    At least this game doesn’t poop on your lawn, shed, chew up your shoes, or bark it’s fool head off. Real dogs suck

  • 14. Grahund  |  March 26, 2010 at 8:24 am

    I don’t recall one of my neighbor’s kids being named “Darin” but I suppose it is possible.

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