Pokémon Go is a location-based augmented reality mobile game, developed by Niantic and published by The Pokémon Company as part of the Pokémon franchise. It was released worldwide in July 2016 for iOS and Android devices.
The game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual Pokémon who appear throughout the real world. It makes use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices. An optional companion Bluetooth wearable device, the Pokémon Go Plus, is planned for future release and will alert users when Pokémon are nearby.
The game received a mixed critical reception, and attracted negative attention due to reports of accidents and public nuisance associated with it. However, it was the most downloaded smartphone app in the United States in its first three days of release and was a boon to the stock value of Nintendo, which owns part of The Pokémon Company.
Normally this game would have been released without me even noticing, or if I noticed, I would have yawned and said “that’s nice … another new Pokémon game.” But everywhere I turn during my daily news trolling, I see something about it. So, I asked my resident video gaming expert exactly what it was, and she explained it to me … sort of in layman’s terms. Apparently the game sends clues to your telephone, based on your phones GPS, telling you where to find certain of these virtual Pokémon critters, and when you finally figure it out and arrive (physically) in that location, you are rewarded with a virtual critter that you can use to superimpose on photos, or play with on the game. Seems like a lot of work for a virtual critter, but so be it. It reminds me of the old-fashioned treasure hunts, where you found notes with clues, ultimately leading to some prize. Actual notes … on paper … written with an actual pencil … leading to some tangible, material, physical prize. Yes, I am showing my age.
At any rate, this game, which has only been out less than two weeks, is causing quite a stir, and even has one New York lawmaker calling for a bill to control … well, it is not clear whether he wants to control aspects of the game, or behaviour of the players, but more about that in a minute. Some incidents that have been reported to date are:
- A Teen Discovered a Dead Body. On Friday, July 8, Shayla Wiggins was exploring a river in rural Wyoming while trying to catch a water Pokémon and stumbled upon a dead body.
- Armed Robbers Used the App to Lure Players to Secluded Areas. Police in O’Fallon, Missouri, have reported that armed robbers were using the app to attract victims to isolated spots. Four teens robbed nearly a dozen Pokémon Go players using a handgun.
- Pokémon Are Appearing at the Holocaust Museum and Auschwitz. Officials from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland are calling for Pokémon Go’s maker, Niantic, to remove the historic sites from the locations where players can hunt for characters.
- A Sex Offender Residence Is a Game Location. In Phoenix, one of the beacons in the game is at the New Windsor Hotel, which is an old hotel turned halfway house for dozens of registered sex offenders.
- A Man’s Private Home Has Turned Into a Pokémon Gym. Boon Sheridan of Massachusetts discovered that his home, a deconsecrated church, had turned into a gym after dozens of people were found strolling around in his yard, guided by their phones.
- A U.S. Soldier Fighting ISIS Catches Pokémon on the Front Line. Former U.S. Marine Louis Park, who is currently fighting alongside Peshmerga soldiers in Iraq, posted a screenshot of a Squirtle on the front line, sitting on top of his machine gun.
- Man Finds Pokémon on Wife’s Hospital Bed While She’s Giving Birth. Jonathan Theriot from Texas posted a photo to Imgur showing that he was attempting to capture a character as his wife was in labor.
And my personal favourite: An Anti-Gay Baptist Church Is Fighting LGBT Users in the Game. There’s been an ongoing battle between the Westboro Baptist Church, which is known for its virulently anti-gay stances and hate speech, and the LGBT community. When one user realized the Kansas church was a gym in the app, he claimed it using a Pokémon named Clefairy and nicknamed it “LoveIsLove.”
I heard that the Westboro group was none too happy to have kids running through their church, squealing when they found their Pokémon characters. Of course, neither were the administrations of the Holocaust Museum and Auschwitz, and that one I understand. But as for Westboro … well, they have dedicated their lives toward invading others space and showing up when & where they were not welcome, so I see that as a case of them getting a taste of their own medicine!
The latest news is that New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz is considering introducing legislation, because he is concerned that people playing Pokémon Go pose a risk to public safety. Ortiz said he was concerned people would play in busy streets, or while driving cars. The latter fear is shared by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, whose leader, Terri Egan, warned that it could have “tragic real-world consequences.” It is unclear, at least to me, what the wording would be in the bill he proposes, but apparently Ortiz is known for proposing off-the-wall legislation such as banning the use of salt in restaurants, taxes on alcohol and sugary drinks, as well as admission to strip clubs. Banning the use of salt in restaurants??? Seriously? So, does that mean we all have to carry little salt packets in our pockets to use when we dine out? Or would we be prohibited from doing that also? And what about pepper? But I digress …
Well, though I laugh at Assemblyman Ortiz, there do seem to be some genuine potential inconveniences and dangers inherent in the playing of this game and I suspect it is only a matter of a short time before the makers will need to find ways to better control the locations of the Poke-gyms. Meanwhile, I hope I do not awaken in the middle of the night to some teenager standing by my bed saying “Hey, Dudette, have you seen a Pikachu around here?”
Special thanks to Natasha for technical assistance regarding the game and Pokémon character identification.