Don't go chasing Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go, the location-based, augmented-reality game, has grabbed the world's attention in just a matter of days after its launch in US and some parts of Europe.


The ongoing rave reviews over virtual reality game Pokemon Go threw up a couple of questions in my mind. Why are millennials, including their parents, so addicted to the game, how can they afford to spend time chasing Pokemons and not feel guilty about it? What will happen to all the unread books? Will we see another Joey Alexander. Sorry for sounding apocalyptic but the world’s fascination for the game, to say the least, is simply going overboard.

No matter how interesting the game may be, I honestly think it’s a waste of precious time. From what I have gathered about PG is that it’s a sophisticated version of the ‘90s cartoon video game character Pokemon. The creators have used GPS technology to create what is called an the augmented reality- a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image (in this case a Pokemon) on a mobile user's screen of the surroundings around them. Basically, the players have to capture the Pokemons that appear on the locations displayed on the screen using Pokeballs-rings that catch them. For this, players have to get as close to the locations (pokestops), where they can collect inventory items that help spot Pokemons and catch them. It’s not that simple. The game extends to different levels of difficulty. I don’t want to go there. Sounds already like a game of choice for someone with a lot of spare time!

I agree that games are for recreation. Normally games are played within a time-frame of 1 to 2 hours. Unless of course, the players don’t want to be defeated ever! Remember those grand-master games or the 9-hour tussle between Nadal and Federer?

Surveys have found out that Pokemon Go fans in US are spending anywhere between 3 to 5 hours or for some more, catching Pokemons in parks and recreational areas (some Pokemons are said to appear only near lakes, oceans).
Just recently, a stampede like situation occurred in Central Park in New York, when players came in hordes to find a Vaporeon (a Pokemon species) located in the park area. One comment on the incident’s video post read: “We never new (sic) pokemon go would be the thing to turn us into zombies.” Exactly my point! Not to mention a man ramming his car into a tree in New York and two friends falling off a cliff in San Diego while playing the game.

I tried getting a sense of the Pokemon craze from a young colleague, who is in her twenties. She explained saying: “Well Pokemon was really big when we were kids. Everyone loved the Pokemon game and now when it makes a comeback with all guns blazing, people are bound to fall for it.” Well, with all due respect to the ‘sense of attachment’, as a kid who grew up hooked into watching the re-broadcasted television American series -- The Wonder Years, the idea of trying to find Winnie Cooper in a park somehow would never appeal to me!

More than the game, what is strange is how quickly the ‘trend’ catches up. And in the age of social media, the spread is magnetic. Defenders of the game say that “it’s a role-playing game” that teaches “patience, strategic planning and discipline.” Ok that may be true. It’s what gaming apps marketers have been saying all this while but they also say ‘a few minutes of gaming.’ Not hours! Moreover, studies on the effectiveness of brain-teaser games have for the most part been inconclusive so far.

Matt Hoffman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing, got all excited about how the quest to “catch ‘em all” in the game prompts “trainers” (as players of the game are called) to venture out of their homes, resulting in exercise! That’s great. But whatever happened to something called “football” or other outdoor sports? Is anyone playing them anymore? Hoffman did mention the flipside too: “Remember, you should never play Pokemon Go while driving. It’s also important to avoid playing in dark, isolated areas — there have been reports of trainers being robbed and attacked,” he said.

The game has not been launched in Asia yet but there are already a huge number of Pokemon fans dying to try it out. The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has already warned smartphone users to restrain from playing games that requests for geographical locations, which Pokemon Go does. The Authority stated that hackers could easily invade privacy of users to carry out criminal activities. It has also warned against illegally downloading the game and has asked fans to wait until the game applications are officially available in UAE.

Should one play Pokemon Go or not? I really can’t say but I have said my part. You decide.

But let’s just hope that the players will see it as just a game and don’t go head-over-heels for it.

Personally, I hope correspondent Lance Ulanoff’s words from his article on Pokemon Go come true quick: “Even so, the end of joy is in the horizon.”

The author's views are personal