Mario and Sonic … move over! There is a new kid, er game, on the block and it is taking the gaming world by a storm! Pokémon Go has been available for just over a month, since July 6th, and already it has been banned in one country, is accused of being a security threat in at least one other, and has been blamed for numerous crimes and accidents around the globe! The premise of the game is simple and innocent. Players use a mobile device’s GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. Although my granddaughter has the game, I have not actually played it, but she enjoys it and goes for a walk in the neighborhood every evening in an effort to catch new virtual critters. I fail to see the harm, but ….
On Monday Iran became the first country to ban Pokémon Go, citing security concerns over its location-based technology. Would you not think that Iran has more serious security concerns than a game? And Russia, who has a history of paranoia with cause, has been warning of possible hidden dangers in the game:
- State TV channel Zvezda, run by the Ministry of Defense, recently published an article claiming that the CIA was interested in them because “they placed a Pokémon gym in our building”.
- Psychologist Lyudmila Polyanova suggested on a talk show that Pokémon Go was a western attempt to control the Russian population and make people infertile. (Infertile??? Seriously????)
- One Cossack leader warned that the game “reeked of satanism”.
- Numerous politicians have called for the game to be banned and conspiracy theories about sensitive data being collected through the cameras of players’ phones have also been suggested.
- Moscow police have beefed up patrol units near Kitay-Gorod in the center of the city where people gather to play the game. Police chief Kirill Vorontsov said it was “to keep the public order.”
And in Saudi Arabia, top clerics renewed a religious edict warning against playing any type of Pokémon game, including the new mobile one. The decree says Pokémon violates Islamic prohibitions against gambling, uses devious Masonic-like symbols and promotes “forbidden images.”
There truly is a “hidden purpose” to the game: to get kids out of the house, walking and exploring their surroundings and having fun at the same time. While wireless technology has certainly opened the doors to some nefarious activities in recent decades, I still find it incredible that such paranoia over a cute little game is running rampant. Which is not to say there aren’t pitfalls and dangers as a result of playing the game.
- In Las Vegas, Elvis Campos, 18, tried to rob Pokémon Go players in Las Vegas before a shootout left him and a player injured.
- A 22-year-old woman in Melbourne, Australia was killed by a hit-and-run driver while playing the game.
- Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura racked up a mobile phone bill of nearly $5,000 playing the game while in Rio for the 2016 summer Olympic games.
- Ohio players Sharon Bartholomew and Adrian Crawford were arrested after allegedly breaking into a zoo — after hours — to hunt for Pokémon.
- Two Pokémon Go players were so distracted by the game that they fell off an ocean bluff in Southern California, suffering moderate injuries.
- An unidentified driver was playing Pokémon Go when he crashed his car into a Baltimore patrol car. (Oopsie!)
Then there are the instances of players seeking cute little Pokémon in places where it is just inappropriate, such as Auschwitz, the 9/11 Memorial, the Holocaust museum, cemeteries and other solemn locales. One would hope that in the coming months, the games developers will take steps to eliminate the “poke-stops” in such places.
Apparently you can also purchase a “game account”, and some are taking advantage of the opportunity in a big way! I saw this in an article on CNBC this morning:
“One listing for “Pokémon Go” on a site called PlayerAuctions is for $999,999. It is for a custom order, so a buyer can tell the seller what they want from an account. The seller will then play the game for them to get the profile up to the requirements requested.”
Wow … for only $1 million dollars, you can pay somebody to play this free game for you! Somebody has more money than good sense, methinks. What am I missing here? I thought the purpose of a game was to play it yourself and have fun? I must really be out of touch with the times!
When I got up this morning, I had two fairly serious topics I planned to write about today, but then I saw the article about Iran banning the game, and I just could not resist having a bit of fun before tackling the more serious side of life. Even though I do not play Pokémon Go, I can still have fun with it! Hope you enjoyed a bit of a chuckle over all of this.