Within the first weeks of its release, the new smartphone game, Pokémon Go has become the latest craze worldwide. It gives the appearance of an innocent game, great social medium and fantastic way to get people off the couch. A different conclusion is reached when one delves into how this game is negatively affecting people and society.
The game is a location-based augmented reality mobile game. It uses the camera on the smartphone to project an image of a Pokémon, a virtual creature in the game. The objective is to capture as many of these creatures as possible, and battle other people’s Pokémon monsters. The playing field for the game is one’s own location and surroundings.
What could possibly go wrong with traveling across the city, glued to a phone, looking for fictitious creatures? Within the first few days of the release, problems already began to arise.
Many accounts have been reported whereby people have twisted their ankles, busted their shins, cut up their hands and sustained other injuries because they were more concerned with finding Pokémon than watching where they were going.1
But the problem doesn’t stop at sprained ankles and bruised shins, criminals have taken to using the game to lure victims to be robbed. In Saint Louis County, Mo., for example, three teenage criminals sent out a beacon alerting players in the area of a possible monster to catch. Instead of finding monsters, players found armed robbers.2
All of these cases are cause for concern. However, there are even deeper problems festering.
Pokémon Go is causing disturbances by mobilizing crowds of players seeking out what are considered rare virtual monsters. Cases have been recorded in DeKalb, Ill. and in New York City.
In Illinois, crowds gathered at one o’clock in the morning and searched frantically for a “Snorlax” monster.3 Additionally, at Central Park in New York City, hundreds of players were seen stampeding through the streets glued to their phones searching for another rare Pokémon. This caused traffic jams with people abandoning their cars in the middle of the street and following the masses on their phones.4 All for a virtual monster.
The fact that such a game is gaining so much worldwide attention is baffling. World events do not generate nearly the excitement as this little game. What about the multiple police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge? How about the recent terrorist attack from ISIS in Nice, France, let alone the numerous and constant attacks on American soil? Why is this game consuming the minds and actions of so many people, young and old, more than these historical and devastating events? Pokémon Go seems to anesthetize people and prevent them from thinking about these serious public events.
Could anyone imagine hundreds of people stampeding through the streets at a moment’s notice, in a show of solidarity for our police? Or to protest the thousands of Christians being killed for their Faith? Or stand up for the innocent unborn?
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Rather than an innocent game filled with “cute” little monsters, Pokémon Go is a very serious and profound problem affecting our society today. The game is leading society into a type of cyber-tribalism, whereby the phone/game is the shaman, and the players are the willing and obsessed subjects, hanging on every word and command.
Related: What’s Wrong with Video Games?
- Associated Press article published by New York Post, “Playing Pokemon Go is becoming dangerous” at http://nypost.com/2016/07/09/pokemon-go-is-afflicting-players-with-real-world-injuries/, assessed July 18, 2016.
- Ryan W. Miller, USA Today, “Teens used Pokémon Go app to lure robbery victims, police say” at http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2016/07/10/four-suspects-arrested-string-pokemon-go-related-armed-robberies/86922474/, assessed July 18, 2016.
- Newsflare.com, “Pokemon Go – Snorlax hunt at 1 am” http://newsvideo.su/video/4707716, assessed July 18, 2016.
- “Pokemon Go – Vaporeon stampede Central Park, NYC,” YouTube video, 0:41, posted by “Dennis450D,” July 15, 2016 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLdWbwQJWI0.