If you haven’t noticed, a little game called Pokémon Go was released last week, and apparently it’s been a huge success with people of every age, race, and creed. It’s been quite an amazing phenomenon, to be honest, and one that once again proves just how tuned in Nintendo is to the people who enjoy their products.
The company has managed to find the holy grail of gaming: a way to marry the digital world the real world. Players have spent the last several days walking, hiking, climbing, and kayaking in their mission to catch ‘em all. For the first time in videogame history, a major franchise has turned the outside world into an inviting adventure for introverts, couch potatoes, neglected children, and others who until this point would have been content to spend their entire lives indoors. Folks of all ages are meeting up in parks, malls, and even the White House to trade and do battle. Pokémon Go is bringing people together based on a common interest and it’s been incredible to witness so far.
However, there are a number of risks inherent to this augmented reality game that haven’t really been present at these levels before. Let’s take a closer look at the pros - and cons - of Pokémon Go.
The exercise aspect has probably been the most talked-about benefit of Pokémon Go since it released. There have been countless stories of players trekking all over in their efforts to find and catch the rarest of the rare. In one incident a parent and child journeyed twenty kilometers in one day—a hell of a walk even for a fitness freak—and met many other trainers along the way. In another, two friends in New Zealand used a kayak to paddle out and claim a gym. In the carrot or stick approach to motivating people to exercise, Nintendo has invented a hell of an effective carrot.
Let’s face it, while the stereotype of the anti-social, basement-dwelling gamer is merely that, a stereotype, for many of us the thought of interacting with complete strangers can sometimes be a genuinely intimidating, anxiety-inducing experience. However, this process becomes a lot easier when the people you’re going to meet are guaranteed to have the same interests as you. There have been many, many posts over the last few days sharing positive Pokémon Go bonding experiences. People are meeting up all over neighbourhoods and cities, battling and making new friends. If you’re feeling lonely, all you have to do is drop a few lures and wait for your new pals to show up.
Something nice amidst the horror
The past few weeks have been pretty rough: with a rash of depressing news stories involving so many senseless deaths and ever-escalating political tensions in our neighbours to the South, it can be a devastating experience just to turn on the news and confront all the horror. In the face of so much divisiveness and tragedy Pokémon Go stands as an unlikely unifying force. As silly as it sounds when contrasted with the deadly seriousness of the reality in which it exists, Pokémon Go really has brought people together. It sounds cheesy, but reading so many uplifting pokémon stories and seeing so many pictures of people simply having fun playing a videogame with each other can really brighten your day. Sure it’s just a game, and the real world’s problems still need to be addressed, but if Pokémon Go can get people outside and making new friends instead of sitting inside becoming progressively more bitter and paranoid, that’s a good thing.
Unfortunately, it’s not all roses and hand-holding. Despite its many benefits, Pokémon Go has some serious risks attached to it, too. Here are a few of the more obvious ones.
The real world has cars
Public awareness of the dangers of texting while driving has grown quite a bit over the last few years. When you’re focused on your phone, you aren’t really paying much attention to your real life surroundings, which dramatically increases your odds of having an accident. If texting and driving is bad, then playing videogames while driving is clearly unacceptable. Police in Washington State have already jumped on this, issuing a cute but serious warning about driving and catching. On the plus side, you can’t hatch eggs while driving unless you’re driving really, really slowly.
Kidnapping and Robbery
Dropping lures in Pokémon Go might be a great way to make some new friends, but it can also be a crafty way to trick people into dangerous situations. Stories are now beginning to pop up about players following lures being greeted not by fellow trainers, but by armed robbers instead. There was also a story about a young man in a supermarket parking lot who almost took a little girl around the side of the building to show her where she could catch a rare pokemon, only to realize after a few steps that his well-meaning assistance could potentially be interpreted as a federal crime. . So stay safe and try to go with a friend when chasing the little monsters, and make sure your kids know how to play safely too. Pokémon Go: great for getting exercise, making friends, and being robbed at gunpoint.
You might find a dead body
This might be the most interesting story to come out of last week’s launch. According to County 10 news out of Riverton, Wyoming, a teenager allegedly pulled a Stand by Me the other day while out searching for pokemon. 19-year-old Shayla Wiggins apparently found a dead body floating in the river on Friday morning while playing the game. While this story hasn’t been confirmed 100%, it seems like only a matter of time before something similar really does happen. It only makes sense that having people exploring every nook and cranny of their neighbourhoods or parks will eventually lead to someone unearthing something sinister.