You’d have to have been living under a rock for the last few weeks to escape the phenomenon of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality app that is sweeping the world. Taking advantage of the newest technology and the popularity of smartphone games, Pokémon Go is a bona fide marvel, but not without its share of consequences.
What is Pokémon Go?
The Pokémon game has been around for decades in various forms, but the Pokémon Go app introduces it to the next tech-savvy generation. In the app, players search for Pokémon around them, which requires moving to new locations and going outside. Pokémon could be found at a local park or attraction or simply walking down your street. When users find a Pokémon, it shows up on an overlay on their phone’s camera, and they then have to “capture” it to add to their collection and battle with other users.
Why is it in the News?
Pokémon Go was downloaded more than 20 million times within its first 10 days, making it the most popular smartphone app. Because the app takes users outside and in public, there have been some interesting side effects from the game’s popularity, which has drawn the attention of news outlets and passersby.
The basis of Pokémon Go requires users to get outside and walk around to find Pokémon, which has led to millions of users exploring their cities and exercising. In fact, Pokémon Go users have burned a total of 3.74 billion calories in just the first few weeks of the app. Users across social media are also praising Pokémon Go for its positive effects on their physical and mental health.
Some organizations are taking advantage of an increased number of people moving around outside. An animal shelter in Indiana went viral after it posted that Pokémon Go players could walk the shelter dogs while they played the game. It worked—more than 250 people visited the shelter to take the dogs on walks in the first week. Other shelters and animal charities are following suit and putting players to good use.
Pokémon Go is in part created by crowdsourcing, which means developers and users can decide where Pokémon are hidden. And wherever there’s a Pokémon, there’s sure to be a crowd of people. Thousands of businesses are reporting huge boosts in their sales from increased Pokémon foot traffic. For some businesses, it’s people coming in to find a Pokémon and making a purchase while they are there; for others, it’s the business that comes as users need a place to charge their phones and eat before heading out to catch more Pokémon. Businesses can pay a small fee to create a lure near their location, which will then attract Pokémon and all that goes with it. It’s definitely a unique time when Pokémon Go is part of a legitimate business plan.
Pokémon Go is clearly a rather addicting game, and players will go to any means necessary to catch that elusive creature. There have been multiple reports of people being injured as they walked in front of moving cars while they were focused on the app, and other stories of players exiting cars illegally to catch Pokémon on the side of the road. One driver even ran into a parked Baltimore police car while trying to snag a Pokémon. In New York City, there were major traffic delays and a near-riot situation when a rare Pokémon was spotted in Central Park. Because the game can sometimes take players off the beaten path, there have also been several reports of injuries attained while hunting Pokémon, including sprained ankles, broken bones, and at least one player falling off a cliff.
There have also been multiple robberies and muggings connected to Pokémon Go. Because the characters tend to stay in the same places, thieves can wait for players at all times of the day or night. At one park in California, a man was robbed while playing Pokémon Go, and his car, phone, and money were stolen. He said he wouldn’t have been in the park that night if it weren’t for Pokémon. In Missouri, four men were arrested for multiple armed robberies on subjects they targeted through Pokémon Go. The men allegedly added a beacon to a nearby Pokéstop in an attempt to lure more players to the location. It worked, and they robbed several people at gunpoint before being arrested.
Pokémon Go takes place in public places around the world, which has led numerous players to look for Pokémon in places that might not be the most appropriate. Officials at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, and other museums and memorials have kindly asked people to stop playing the game in their facilities after players disturbed the solemn nature of the locations by hunting for Pokémon. According to the museums, there are some places where it just isn’t appropriate to play video games.
It’s safe to say that the Pokémon Go craze is unlike anything the world has seen in a while, and it’s led to some interesting stories in the news.
While searching for Pokémon, some users have stumbled on other surprising items. A teenager in Wyoming found a dead body in a river while she was on the hunt for Pokémon. The body had been there less than 24 hours, and detectives were able to use the body as a lead in a case. Another corpse was found by a Pokémon Go player in San Diego.
In New Zealand, barista and bartender Tom Currie quit his job to play Pokémon Go full time. Tom says he got a mixed response at first, but in the weeks since his big decision, he has enjoyed travelling every day and exploring new towns to find Pokémon. He says he has gotten messages from players around the world who admire his dedication to the game.
Pokémon Go also gives people a chance to connect like never before—there have been multiple relationships attributed to the app, as well as numerous fights and breakups—and maybe even a few divorces.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens next in the Pokémon Go craze, but one thing is for sure: reading the news has never been this interesting.