July 18, 2016 – “Pokemon Go,” the newest addition to a sprawling media empire encompassing comics, video and trading card games, animated series and movies is breaking records and, counterintuitively, getting people to actually interact with the outside world. The wildly popular game uses GPS data from a player’s smartphone to lead them on a virtual scavenger hunt to “catch” rare Pokemon like “Squirtle” and “Jigglypuff.”
Players are invited to explore real world locations in search of their favorite Pocket Monsters (Pokemon for short). The surging interest in the “augmented reality” game, which has been downloaded over 7.5 million times, is flooding the world’s parks, schools, historical landmarks and other random “PokeStops” with people trying to better equip themselves for their Poke-hunting adventures.
The in-game hubs or “Gyms” encourage players to congregate and compete and/or cooperate to capture new Pokemon. But it’s these arbitrary meet ups that are the source of the problem. Recent visitors to the Holocaust Memorial in Washington D.C. have complained that their somber vigils are being defiled by Poke-fiends on their non-stop monster quests.
“Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism,” Andrew Hollinger, the museum’s communications director, told the Washington Post. “We are trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game.”
While some places are petitioning the game’s developers to remove them from the mobile game’s map interface, many players are celebrating what they consider to be the positive social aspects of the game. The game records the distances players travel prompting them to get off their couches and walk their own neighborhoods for the first time, and large numbers of people are enjoying connecting with fellow gamers to trade Poke catching tips.
It hasn’t been all fun and games for Go getters. At least one minor traffic crash has been reported with the cause attributed to a distracted Pokemon hunter. Some unlucky players were ambushed by a group of robbers who used the game to lure them to an isolated area. One player’s Poke mission even turned up a fresh corpse instead of a Polliwhirl.
Still, with more users each day Pokemon Go shows no signs of slowing down, so is it a harmless high score or is playing on a mass grave a game-breaker? Funny or Offensive? Vote and comment below.