Sci & Tech

Pokémon GO: Unlike Others

Finance Desk
Pokémon GO: Unlike OthersPokémon GO: Unlike Others

The vibrant, sleep-defying bunch thought they could finally have a moment’s rest when suddenly one guy boomed, “There’s an Electabuzz nearby!” which made everyone stare at their smartphones almost uncontrollably, in search of the popular, somewhat rare electrical humanoid otherwise known as a Pokémon.

It was 4:30 a.m. at one of the best-known parks in Tehran, Mellat Park, where a group of more than 20 had gathered around the bust of Avicenna to hunt Pokémon. The bust, now a Pokéstop or a place where you virtually collect goods related to the new Pokémon GO game, was the site where these millennials had rallied, by chance and by design, to hunt fabled creatures and exchange tips.

The game has found its way to millions of people’s phones and lives worldwide in a matter of weeks and Iranian youths, who have to circumvent restrictions by using VPNs (virtual private networks) to be able to play, are no exception.

The free-to-play, location-based phenomenon developed as a result of a joint effort by Niantic, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company, uses augmented reality to allow its players to locate, capture, battle and train the not-always-so-merry creatures almost anywhere one can think of—except for highways and other high-risk or restricted areas.

Recently, warning signs have been set up for players, such as “Do not drive while playing Pokémon GO” and “Do not trespass while playing Pokémon GO” when they open the game, which are aimed at preventing any danger or disaster.

Depending on how they are used, the addictive game could prove productive or destructive; as the man who drove his car off the road and into a tree in New York a few weeks back would tell you, Pokémon hunting and driving will eventually prove detrimental to your health and to that of anyone misfortunate enough to be in your path like talking on the phone while driving.

There have also been reports of people being mugged, stabbed and shot to death in bizarre and distressful events related to the game.  

But like many other pieces of gaming and technology, if used correctly, Pokémon GO can also be a tool for having fun, interacting with other enthusiasts and exploring parts of your hometown–or any town for that matter–that you would normally not bother to.

  Energizing, Interactive Effect

As many players attested on Twitter to the energizing effect the game has had on their life, Pokémon GO can also help people suffering from depression and anxiety tackle their symptoms.

Gamers, who would usually sit comfortably behind their PCs and consoles, will now get physical exercise while searching for Pokémons anywhere and automatically interacting with other people in this journey.

One cannot resist the urge to interact, as you come across many people doing the same thing, and even the loneliest of lone wolves, at one point or another, will have to communicate with others because the game thrives on group work.

Unlike most games where you might play with someone for months and never meet them in person or at most hear their voice once, knowing them only by names and in-game IDs, “this is a game that knowingly upends everything; you might spend hours on end with people you had not met before, never coming across their in-game handles”, says Behrouz, a 26-year-old who has been playing the game ever since it first came out.

“You teach me and I’ll teach you,” reads the original Pokémon theme song after all.

On the other hand, the game itself provides only the most basic information and no useful tips whatsoever, so the faster players start using the collective experience of other players around them, the faster they can rise through the ranks and gloat about their new achievements.  

Despite all this, Iran’s High Council of Virtual Space–the official body overseeing online activity–banned the Pokémon GO app on Friday over “security concerns.”

The game can undoubtedly be interpreted as a lesser-seen modern-day phenomenon, as during its rather short lifespan it has managed to shift borders in many areas from major stocks fluctuations to power bank sales.   

Looking at the matter from both sides, however, it must be noted that by getting access to the users’ GPS information and Google ID, Pokémon GO, intentionally or otherwise, has been and is creating a potentially dangerous database. In the wrong hands, this kind and volume of hard data, including times, dates and places, could certainly be exploited.

Pokémon GO has not yet released a public statement in response to the global security concerns except in one case where Niantic said the The Verge that Pokémon Go only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected.