It’s been a hell of a week, what with events in France, Turkey, the USA, and Germany yesterday, yet it’s a monster-hunting mobile game that’s making the most waves online. Pokémon Go is a mix of gaming and reality, and research suggests that fans of the game are devoting 43 minutes to it, each, per day. In its first week, Pokémon Go scored 15.3 million tweets worldwide compared to 11.7 million for Brexit in the week of the UK referendum – and double the 7.5 million tweets about the Euro 2016 football championships in its first seven days.
The basic premise is that you walk around ‘hunting’ Pokémon which can be found in a range of diverse locations. Bizarrely, the game can actually be good for you – an average man playing the game for seven days could burn 1,795 calories – and a woman would burn 1,503.
To find rare Pokémon, you have to hatch them, but don’t worry, there’s no Pokémon pornography. You can collect eggs at Pokestops – which are real world landmarks that appear in the game. You then have to walk a certain distance for them to hatch. The rarest Pokémon hatch from eggs after a 10km (6 mile) walk – then 5km and 2km for the more common creatures.There has been some controversy about the location of Pokémon, with some characters in the game appearing in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery. However, many Christian churches have said they are happy to have people hunting Pokémon on their premises.
What could possibly go wrong, Karl?
Yeah. Well let’s start with this report from this morning’s Daily Mail (19.07.2016) whereby one player dialled 999 to tell Gloucestershire police that someone had ‘stolen’ one of her virtual monsters. An audio clip has been released, in which the operator can be heard asking, ‘Right, so why is that a 999 call?’ and the woman responds ‘Because that’s really bad.’
Public safety fears
Gerry Beyer, Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law is the USA has warned people that “Death by Pokémon is coming.” And he’s not kidding. Reports in the US have suggested that two men playing the game had to be rescued after falling off a 90-foot ocean bluff in California, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Local police authorities have taken to social media to issue warnings, San Francisco Police Department urged fans that, “As you battle, train, and capture your Pokémon just remember you’re still in the real world!” while many other law enforcement agencies have already reported accidents, injuries and robberies where suspects have used the game to lure victims.
There have even been armed robberies of “Pokémon GO” players in Maryland and on Long Island and the game has been the cause of numerous road accidents. Texas A&M University Police tweeted that a vehicle had struck an illegally parked car on Monday, after the first driver, “had exited to catch a Pokémon,” and in New York a driver wrapped his car around a tree while playing Pokémon Go in his car.Numerous distracted pedestrians, not looking where they’re going, have ended up in local casualty units too. Reddit had a thread dedicated to “Pokémon Go put me in the ER” after one chap slipped and fell down a ditch, fracturing his fifth metatarsal bone in his foot. Another woman reported how her 15-year-old daughter injured her collarbone and foot after being hit by a car as she crossed the road while playing the game.
The developer Niantic include a pop up warning when the game starts up, asking users to remain aware of their surroundings and never enter private property. There’s also a disclaimer stating that Niantic is not liable for any property damage, injuries or deaths that result while playing.
Pokémon Go is racist?
Samuel Alioto in the Santa Monica Observer (19.07.2016) has highlighted how the leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) have charged Pokémon Go, with inherent racism. Why? Well, when you look at the facts, it does raise some sombre issues in the current US climate.
Firstly, it’s much safer to play Pokémon Go if you’re white and living in your own neighbourhood, because if you’re black and you play Pokémon in Beverly Hills, the chances are the police are going to stop you, question you and want to know what you’re ‘really’ up to. There’s also the second charge that Pokémon Go is racist because you can set yourself up as a white Avatar, hunting down and collecting (or shooting) the black monsters in your own neighbourhood. I haven’t played the game myself so I can’t vouch for the veracity of the latter charge, but I was really struck by the first comment.
Omari Akil, a US writer based in North Carolina wrote the following:
• There is a statistically disproportionate chance that someone could call the police to investigate me for walking around in circles in the complex.
• There is a statistically disproportionate chance that I would be approached by law enforcement with fear or aggression, even when no laws have been broken.
• There is a statistically disproportionate chance that I will be shot while reaching for my identification that I always keep in my back right pocket.
• There is a statistically disproportionate chance that more shots will be fired and I will be dead before any medical assistance is available.
• The premise of Pokémon Go asks me to put my life in danger if I choose to play it as it is intended and with enthusiasm. Let’s just go ahead and add Pokémon Go to the extremely long list of things white people can do without fear of being killed, while Black people have to realistically be wary.
That’s food for thought, isn’t it?
Final Pokémon Go weirdness
One unfortunate American woman found more than she bargained for while she was hunting Pokémon near her home. She discovered a dead body in a river. Police who investigated said the man had died within the last 24 hours and no foul play was suspected. Ewww.
Four people were arrested after they used the game to lure players to remote places and then rob them at gunpoint. In response, the makers of Pokémon Go have said people should “play with friends when going to new or unfamiliar places” and “remember to be safe and alert at all times”. Yep, take a friend. If you have any.
The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in the US is the location of a gym in the game, and players planted a pink “Clefairy” Pokémon there and named him Love is Love. The church has responded with a series of social media posts calling the Pokémon a sodomite.
Pokémon Go has added more than $7bn (£5.4bn) to Nintendo’s value by virtue of its shares rallying since it was released.
Over to you
Pokémon Go fan or not? Share any funny Pokémon Go stories with us. We’d love a laugh! Come and chat on Facebook or leave a comment below.
And watch how you go out there!