Pokemon Go players like zombies

Brent Stafford theQ Leave a Comment

theQuestion: Is the Pokemon Go craze a sign of a coming apocalypse?*

As Rome burns, the masses fiddle their time away immersed in the latest version of one of the most persistently inane video game franchises of all time — Pokemon. Only those with heads stuck in the sand could have missed Pokemon Go and the international phenomenon it unleashed just a few weeks ago — amassing an army of followers.

Pokemon Go is the first mass-market video game to successfully blend the real world and the digital world into what is called “augmented reality.”

The game is built on a brightly-animated version of Google Maps and tracks a player’s location and movements in real-time. The game map includes the roads, waterways and monuments where the player lives and displays real-world locations where hidden Pokemon monsters can be found.

Gameplay requires players to behave rather strangely. Like zombies marching to the apocalypse, players dutifully tromp through the streets of our cities with heads down and eyes glazed in an endless search for the next demon to capture, nurture and train to do battle. One must constantly look at their phone, consult the map, while navigating the real world. There is nothing real to be found. Using the camera on the phone, the player scans the surroundings and game displays, over top of reality, a Pokemon monster to capture.

Then there are the hazards — not in the game, but in the real world. These hazards must also be navigated, not just to win the game, but to not get yourself killed. Police departments across the world have issued warnings about distracted walking, driving and bike riding while playing. In San Diego, firefighters were called to rescue two men that separately walked off a cliff in search of a Pokemon. New York City has plastered its subway with pleas to stay behind the yellow line and off the tracks. In Bosnia, players were spotted trying to catch Pokemon in an active minefield left over from the brutal war in the 1990s.

If a video game commands so many people to do so many foolish things, what happens when the creators of that game decide to command its legions to engage in more sinister behaviour? Would players be aware? Or would they just follow instructions no matter the cost? I fear Pokemon creatures might not be the only ones being trained.

*First published in 24hrs Vancouver ‘theDuel’

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