You see them here, there, on the pathways, on the streets, across bridges, inside parks, inside shopping malls between buildings, behind parking lots, and basically anywhere outdoors imaginable. It seems as if the world has been invaded by a huge fleet of ‘Pokemon Go Zombies’ or more generally called ‘Pokemon-goers’.
Despite mixed reviews and a tad bit of criticism from game critics, Pokemon Go has become quite a phenomenon since its release on the 6th of July, 2016. It is basically a game that makes the use of the GPS and the Camera of any Android or IOS device. Users have to catch Pokemon by throwing Pokeballs at them. The locations of different Pokemon are marked at given locations in the real world using GPS. The users have to search for the Pokemon using GPS navigation and also have to catch Pokemon, once found, using their Camera.
Pokemon Go is the product of the amalgamation between Nintendo and Niantic. It has been in development since 2014, collaborating with The Pokemon Company. Initially called, the Google Maps-Pokémon Challenge, this game was the brain-child of Tsunekazu Ishihara from ‘The Pokémon Company’, and Satoru Iwata from ‘Nintendo’. It started as an April fool’s day collaboration with Google.
Isahara was hugely impressed by Niantic’s Ingress. Pokemon Go is highly inspired by the trans-reality concept of Ingress. The crowd-sourced data for populating the locations of PokeStops and gyms within the game was taken from Ingres.
Data from Google maps was also taken for placing different Pokemon in different places across the real world. Of course, you can see these Pokemon only through the Pokemon Go app.
The investors were overwhelmed by the response to the initial release of the game. Within a week of its release, Nintendo’s share price increased by a whopping 50% of its previous value. Despite holding only 32% stake, Nintendo’s market value was increased by US$9 Billion, just within 5 days of the release of the game.
Within nearly 2 weeks of the release of the game, Nintendo’s market value was more than double its previous value. Pokemon Go stormed the mobile world being the most downloaded application across any mobile platform. On Apple’s App store, it rose to ‘top grossing’ within a very short interval of its release. It also holds the record of being the fastest growing app on the App store and Google play.
Along with this, it also holds the record of being the most downloaded app in the first week on the App store. The game was downloaded a flabbergasting 10 million times across Android devices in the USA within the first week of its release. In-game purchases yielded a mammoth amount of US$160 million by the end of the month of its release.
Usually, people perceive a mobile game, as yet another excuse to escape reality and transcend into the tranquility of a virtual world, resulting in the wastage of a lot of time. But, unlike other games, Pokemon Go augments the real world with virtual interactive elements. Instead of confining the players within chairs, couches, and beds; Pokemon Go inspires its players to go out, run, explore, and interact with the real environment around them.
As of now, Pokemon Goers could be seen across every corner of the world. It is not an app; it has become a trend. Thanks to the fame of Pokemon, Pokemon Go breaths in, a sense of nostalgia within people who were kids in the 90s.
Even younger kids born in the 2000s are also fascinated and abscessed over catching these cute and cuddly virtual characters within their environment.
Pokemon Go is not just a game, it is a whole new experience altogether. But, for some, ‘Pokemania’ is not as fortunate. Despite being the most downloaded game of all times across different mobile platforms, this game has a reputation of being one of the most notorious and dangerous games across the mobile world.
Let us just accept the fact that almost all of the few trans-reality games ever created have a significant measure of safety issues. The fact that Pokemon Go has become the top grossing games of all times brings a great number of people to the unsafe territory.
The game was heavily criticized for including sensitive vicinity such as graveyards, churches, and museums as Pokemon hunting zones. Although a considerable number of these sensitive areas were removed from the game by Niantic in the later iterations of the game. The Dutch company ProRail complained that players would irresponsibly enter railway tracks and fire stations, making it difficult to guarantee their safety.
The residents of Sydney became so agitated by witnessing hoards of Pokemon Goers that they resorted to throwing water bombs at these ‘Poke-maniacs‘. The Poke-mania had become such a phenomenon that the Police departments across various countries had to intervene. The Police had to issue warnings regarding trespassing, unmindful driving, and criminal encounters because of being unaware of the surroundings.
A heavily addicted Pokemon Goer would also resort to trespass other people’s private properties if the Pokemon lurking within these properties possesses higher value. For them, this is just like another challenge. The sense of accomplishment after catching a Pokemon is great, but, resorting to criminal activities to get it is not acceptable.
In August 2016, a driver playing Pokemon Go while driving recklessly killed a woman and also grievously injured another woman traveling with her while crossing the street in Japan. It was the country’s 79th Pokemon Go related accident. A Cambodian girl was accidentally killed while she was trying to catch a Pokemon on the road.
As of 20th July 2016, an 18-year-old boy was shot dead in Chiquimula, Guatemala while playing the game in the late evening hours. It was speculated by the police in this case, that the app’s GPS was used by the shooter to track down the location of the victim. This exposed the many ways in which the game can be used for nefarious deeds.
A 21-year-old blogger from Russia was taken behind the bars by the police for two months because he was playing this game in a Church. Apart from these examples of insensitive behavior, a great number of injuries and accidents have been accredited to the game in many separate incidents.
During the 2016 constitutional referendum polling in Thailand, Pokemon Goers were prohibited from entering polling stations. The Vietnamese Government has also checked players from entering government and defense offices. In fact, The Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications had to ban the game altogether after witnessing people left home at night and crossed roads and drove having their eyes fixated to their cell phones.
The game was also banned from all administration offices across the Philippines. The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) stated that around 4% of employees were fired by their bosses because of playing Pokemon Go. The Gujarat high court, in India, issued a notice to Niantic on the grounds of posing danger to public safety.
Another Public Interest Litigation was filed against the makers of the game as it hurt the religious sentiments of the Indians. The game allegedly placed eggs within temples and other religious places where non-vegetarian food is strictly prohibited.
Pokemon Go has indeed redefined the gaming world with its unique concept and addictive game-play. It has introduced a whole new genre to the gaming world. It has successfully moderated in bringing people outdoors again. Still, it has faced a fair share of controversies and criticism as it affects people’s lives and challenges their safety.
A knife never knows its destiny, whether it would be used for constructive or destructive purposes. It is al up to the wielder. Likewise, it is up to the player how he takes this game. Casually playing the game with a few outdoor activities is fun and fine. But, transcending your conscience into the Pokemon Go world risking lives and career is madness and beyond acceptance.